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U.N. building needs costly repairs

But U.S. may not support extensive renovation plan

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UNITED NATIONS — In the aftermath of World War II, a team of 11 architects from around the world came together to build a "Workshop for Peace" — a home for the newly created United Nations.

A half-century later, the architectural gem that has helped define the New York City skyline is in disrepair. Asbestos tiles violate building codes. Electrical wiring is antiquated. Inefficient windows drive up heating bills. Sprinklers to guard against fire don't exist.

This week, the United Nations plans to announce ambitious proposals to overhaul its global headquarters on Manhattan's East River — although funding for a project that could reach $1 billion at the cash-strapped organization has yet to be secured, diplomats say.

The United States, which hosts the United Nations and its missions in New York, is expected to be asked to pay a significant chunk of the bill.

U.N. ambassadors were briefed last week on the "Capital Master Plan," which proposes various deadlines and price-tags for an overhaul of the complex's main Secretariat office tower, curved General Assembly hall, Dag Hammarskjold Library and other smaller buildings on the U.N. site.

U.N. administrators are believed to favor a six-year renovation estimated at about $964 million, said the diplomats, who were briefed on the plans.

Other proposals include building new office space or even adding extra floors onto the existing library or main office tower — although the latter is not being recommended, the diplomats said.

Undersecretary-General for Management Joseph Connor, who has spearheaded the U.N. renovation project, estimates that the organization would have to spend $1.6 billion including energy costs over 25 years if the United Nations continues with its current, inefficient ways and slowly replaces equipment as it wears out, the diplomats said.

Washington, which is already $1.6 billion in debt to the United Nations, is a tough sell on new U.N. costs. The deputy U.S. ambassador in charge of U.N. management issues, Donald Hays, said Friday that approval of the renovation plans was not imminent.