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United Nations Daily Highlights, 03-08-19

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:






Tuesday, August 19, 2003


The UN compound at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, was hit today, apparently by a car bomb, and by the early afternoon, the Spokesman said that at least 15 people were dead and at least 100 injured. An hour after the briefing, he confirmed that Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Iraq and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, was among the dead.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan reacted to todays bombing by saying, All of us at the United Nations are shocked and dismayed by todays attack, in which many of our colleagues have been injured and an unknown number have lost their lives Iraqis as well as international staff. Nothing can excuse this act of unprovoked and murderous violence against men and women who went to Iraq for one purpose only: to help the Iraqi people recover their independence and sovereignty, and to rebuild their country as fast as possible, under leaders of their own choosing.

He gave his hopes and prayers that those injured will be swiftly brought to safety and be able to make a full recovery, and added, I grieve deeply for those who have died, and express my most heartfelt sympathy to their loved ones.

I also hope to see those who have perpetrated this outrage brought to justice. Most of all, I hope to see Iraq restored as soon as possible to peace, security and full independence. The United Nations will make every effort to bring that about.

The Spokesman said that the Secretary-General was canceling his vacation to return to New York on Wednesday.

Asked for details of the attack, the Spokesman said that it appears to have taken place just outside the perimeter of the UN compound, at a place where the perimeter had been close to the building, with a car exploding on the road outside the fence around the compound.

Asked whether this was the first terrorist attack on the United Nations, the Spokesman said that there have been bombs thrown and grenades lobbed at UN premises in the past, and it is not uncommon for UN personnel to work in high-risk environments, although he was unaware of any previous attack of this magnitude.


The Secretary-General said in a statement, "The loss of Sergio Vieira de Mello is a bitter blow for the United Nations, and for me personally."

"The death of any colleague is hard to bear, but I can think of no one we could less afford to spare, or who would be more acutely missed throughout the UN system, than Sergio," he said. "Throughout his career he has been an outstanding servant of humanity, dedicated to relieving the suffering of his fellow men and women, helping them to resolve their conflicts and rebuild their war-torn societies.

"In his work with the peoples of every continent as an official of the High Commissioner for Refugees, as Emergency Relief Coordinator, as my Special Representative in Kosovo and East Timor, and (all too briefly) as High Commissioner for Human Rights in all those positions he impressed everyone with his charm, his energy, and his ability to get things done not by force but by diplomacy and persuasion."

The Secretary-General went on, "In Iraq, where he spent the last months of his life, he was working day and night to help the Iraqi people regain control of their own destiny and build a future of peace, justice and full independence. It is tragic that he has now given his life in that cause, along with others who, like him, were devoted and much-loved servants of the United Nations. Those who killed him have committed a crime, not only against the United Nations but against Iraq itself."

He concluded, "I share the grief of Sergios family. We shall all miss him sorely, as a colleague and as a friend. Let us also strive to be worthy of him, and to complete the work that he began, so that his death will not have been in vain."

Asked about Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Spokesman noted his long list of successes at the United Nations, saying that he had distinguished himself as an active, capable doer. Of the attack, the Spokesman said, Anything as dramatic as this is a setback.

He said it was too soon to think about a successor to Vieira de Mello, although the Secretary-General had been thinking of a replacement once his four-month term as Special Representative was set to expire.

Asked about other senior officials who had died in UN history, he noted the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte in the late 1940s.


The Security Council this morning received a briefing from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Turk on the attack in Iraq, and afterward, Syrian Deputy Permanent Representative Fayssal Mekdad read a statement on behalf of the Security Council expressing their shock at and condemnation of the attack.

Such terrorist incidents cannot break the will of the international community to further intensify its efforts to help the people of Iraq, he said, adding that the Council will stay united against such attacks to help the Iraqi people restore peace and stability to their country.

The Spokesman said that the statements by the Secretary-General and the Security Council show that the international community will not be deterred, and that the United Nations will make every effort to achieve its objectives in Iraq.

At the same time, he added, the United Nations has a responsibility to every Government that provides national staff to it to take into account the threat to their safety. The UN will try to ensure their safety, he said, but added, Were going to stay the course.

Asked about threats to UN staff in Iraq, he said he had no knowledge of any.

In response to questions on security, the Spokesman noted that security in Iraq is the responsibility of the occupying powers, the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the United Nations depends on the Authority for security.

Asked about an investigation into the attack, the Spokesman said that the occupying powers would have the primary responsibility to perform one, but the United Nations would also conduct an investigation.

It had been believed that the environment in Iraq was safe enough for the United Nations to begin humanitarian work. There were about 300 international staff in Baghdad and more than 600 in Iraq as a whole, while there were about 2,500 locally-employed staff working for the United Nations in the country.

style="font-size:12.0pt;mso-bidi-font-weight: Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162 - press/media only

Fax. 212-963-7055

All other inquiries to be addressed to (212) 963-4475 or by e-mail to:

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