Private sector may sponsor restoration of UN building-paper

ZURICH, June 15 Sun Jun 15, 2014 6:55am EDT

ZURICH, June 15 (Reuters) - The United Nations is exploring the possibility of member states and private sector companies sponsoring the refurbishment of its European headquarters, the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Food group Nestle could be one of the companies involved, the head of the UN's Geneva office was quoted as saying in a newspaper interview.

The UN has a plan to renovate the historic Palais des Nations with construction scheduled to begin in 2017. The projected cost is 837 million Swiss francs ($929.48 million) over a period of 10 years, according to the UN website.

"I have been charged to manage with the 837 million, but I want to do a better job than would be possible with this tight budget," Michael Moller, the Danish diplomat at the helm of the Geneva office, told Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag in an interview published on Sunday.

He said he was inviting member states to take on sponsorship for the renovation of certain rooms that would then be named after the countries in question, but would also turn to private sector companies, such as Nestle.

A spokesman for Nestle, Robin Tickle, told Reuters: "There have been no formal discussions or decisions on this matter." He declined to comment on whether the company would consider such a partnership.

UN spokeswoman Corinne Momal-Vanian also said there were currently no talks with Nestle and it was just one of several possible partners.

"We need to find sources of financing that will help lower the costs. Our director is looking for big companies that could accept to make a contribution," she told Reuters.

The Palais des Nations, originally built for the League of Nations, is the largest United Nations conference centre in Europe and hosted 10,220 meetings in 2012. It comprises a historic building complex completed in 1937 that was expanded in the 1950s and in the 1970s. ($1 = 0.9005 Swiss Francs) (Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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