Ban on North Pole trip

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to visit a Norwegian island deep inside the Arctic Circle, near the North Pole, to see firsthand the effects of climate change, his spokeswoman said.

Ban is scheduled to arrive in Oslo on August 31 for an official visit where he will be received by Norway's King Harald V, and hold meetings with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.

He will also place a wreath on the tomb of Trygve Lie, the first secretary general of the United Nations.

The following day, on September 1, Ban will head to Longyearbyen, a town on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. The UN chief will spend two days visiting polar stations and research institutes on the island, which is part of the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic ocean.

Ban hopes "to see firsthand the impact of climate change in the Arctic," his spokeswoman Michele Montas said Monday.

He will receive "the latest update on issues related to the thinning ice and make his way to the polar ice rim," he said.

After his visit, Ban is scheduled to head to Geneva to participate on September 3 in the third World Climate Conference, organized by the UN's World Meteorological Organization.

The UN chief, who has made fighting climate change one of his top priorities as head of the international organization, will host a high-level conference on the issue in New York on September 22, ahead of the annual General Assembly debate, scheduled for September 23-26.

In November 2007, Ban travelled to the Antarctic to observe firsthand the effects of global warming.

Before arriving in Norway, Ban will spend three days in Austria where he will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UN headquarters in Vienna.

The anniversary ceremony for the Vienna International Center, which has been one of the United Nations' headquarters, alongside New York and Geneva, since August 23, 1979, will take place on August 28.

Ban, who was for several years South Korea's ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, was also due to speak at the European Forum Alpbach, a political, economic and scientific symposium in western Tyrol, during his trip.