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Global agency to tackle Y2K

The White House applauds the creation of an international body by members of the United Nations and the World Bank and has named a U.S. government official to help lead the new body.

The White House is applauding the creation of the International Y2K Cooperation Center by members of the United Nations and the World Bank and has named a U.S. government official to help lead the new body.

The International Y2K Cooperation Center, announced on Friday, is an organization consisting of government officials, industry leaders, and business executives that will support efforts to address the Year 2000 computer problem.

Financial support for the center will come from voluntary donations made to the World Bank, and contributions from countries that are active coordinators in the center.

John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, backed up the Clinton administration's praise of the new center with a $12 million contribution to support the World Bank's financing of the center.

"Concerns about the Year 2000 problem don't stop at any country's border," Koskinen said in a statement. "The United States is pleased to support the creation of the International Y2K Cooperation Center, which will make a vital contribution to helping all nations work together, regionally and within key economic sectors, to meet the global challenges of the Y2K problem."

He also praised Pakistan's United Nations Ambassador Ahmad Kamal for spearheading efforts at that global body last year that brought the center into existence.

In December, Kamal and a number of other concerned UN ambassadors, with the help of Koskinen, held a two-day forum in New York City that brought together Y2K coordinators from 120 countries.

The delegates at the meeting requested an ongoing effort to facilitate cooperation on Y2K remediation and response. The new Y2K center is the brainchild of these requests.

Although supportive of any efforts to bring laggard states around the globe up to speed on the Y2K front, Edward Yardeni, chief economist of Deutsche Bank Securities, and recognized Y2K expert, said the International Y2K Cooperation Center may be a bit late in coming.

"It's too little, too late, but better than nothing," he said. "If this could give us better feedback on the countries that aren't taking the issue seriously and that should be written off and make contingency plans for, then the center will be helpful."

A group of coordinators from the December meeting at the United Nations will serve as the Y2K center's steering committee.

Bruce McConnell, formerly Chief of Information Policy and Technology at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, has been provided to the center and will serve as its director, according to Koskinen's office.

The Y2K center's mission so far will be to facilitate the sharing of information on the status of country and industry efforts; to organize and support regional meetings in areas where there is a need for greater coordination among nations; to assist international sectoral groups like the International Telecommunications Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency; as well as organize the June 1999 meeting of National Year 2000 Coordinators with the United Nations Informatics Working Group to be held at the UN.

Yardeni said the new Y2K center and Koskinen's support of it on the whole is a good thing for global efforts to fix the Y2K glitch. "This is one race the United States doesn't want to win alone."