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UN Boosting Annan Security After Bin Laden Threat

8 May 2004 -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is taking seriously a death threat against him and other officials made in an audio recording attributed to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The recording, which appeared on 6 May, offered gold to anyone who killed Annan, his envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi, as well as Iraq's U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer.

It's not been established if the voice on the recording is bin Laden's. But a CIA official said the agency believes the tape is likely authentic.

And UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the body is taking steps to enhance Annan's security regardless of the tape's authenticity. "We do take those tapes very seriously regardless of what the authenticity of that is," he said. " We are studying the matter and in consultation with the host country, the United States, we are taking steps to enhance the secretary-general's security."

The secretary-general's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, told reporters Annan intends to carry on his work as usual. "The secretary-general was asked on entering the Security Council this morning about his reaction to the threat against him reportedly issued by Osama bin Laden. He responded that the United Nations will take precautions and that he intends to carry on with his life and his work," Eckhard said.

Earlier on 6 May, the UN said it is planning a $21 million security upgrade at its New York headquarters. The improvements are to include a higher fence, new gates, improved outdoor lighting, additional closed-circuit television cameras, vehicle barriers, and an electronic system for controlling access.

Haq said the upgrade was prompted by attacks on UN installations during the past year, including a Baghdad bombing that killed 22 people at the offices there in August. "The 19 August attack on UN headquarters in Iraq pointed to the
need to enhance security in UN complexes around the world, this is part and parcel to what we are doing. UN offices, not just here but in places like Geneva and Nairobi are being enhanced in many types of ways," Haq said.

Construction trailers have been moved into a park on UN grounds and the improvements are to be built over the coming months.