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– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
Dhanapala to Head New UN Department
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On January 14, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Sri Lankan Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala to head the newly re-established UN Department of Disarmament Affairs. Only weeks after his appointment, Annan selected Dhanapala to head the Special Group of diplomats overseeing inspection of Iraq's eight so-called presidential compounds, as agreed between Annan and Saddam Hussein February 23. (See page 30.) As UN undersecretary general for disarmament affairs, Dhanapala reports to Annan, but will be working under UN Special Commission head Ambassador Richard Butler during the inspection of the sites according to the new agreement.

Dhanapala, a long-time non-aligned movement participant in disarmament discussions who led the 1995 review conference which indefinitely extended the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and represented Sri Lanka at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament (CD), took up his post on February 1 amid expectations that his new role will help elevate multilateral disarmament at the United Nations. With a budget of about $13 million (of a UN total of $2.52billion), it is hoped that Dhanapala can breath new life into to several flagging areas of disarmament, including weapons of mass destruction, small arms and landmines.

The new department will be responsible for organizing the meetings of the Preparatory Committees (PrepComs) for several treaty review conferences, including the NPT, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention and the Convention on Conventional Weapons. Through the department, the UN Secretariat will now be more closely connected to a broad range of disarmament matters, including the expert groups on disarmament issues, the status of multilateral arms regulation agreements and the UN Register of Conventional Arms.