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Iraq: Annan mourns envoy's death as ‘bitter blow’ for UN

Iraq: Annan mourns envoy's death as ‘bitter blow’ for UN

UN headquarters in Baghdad after attack on 19 August 2003
Secretary-General Kofi Annan denounced the attack on United Nations headquarters in Baghdad today as an inexcusable “act of unprovoked and murderous violence” and mourned the death of his top envoy for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, as “a bitter blow for the United Nations, and for me personally.”

“Those who killed him have committed a crime, not only against the United Nations but against Iraq itself,” Mr. Annan said in a statement issued in New York.

“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 added. “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.”

Praising Mr. Vieira de Mello’s work through his long UN career of more than 30 years, Mr. Annan said he impressed everyone with “his charm, his energy, and his ability to get things done – not by force but by diplomacy and persuasion.

“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,” Mr. Annan added. “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.”

In a statement earlier Tuesday before Mr. Vieira de Mello’s death, while he still lay trapped in the rubble of the devastated building, Mr. Annan had prayed for his recovery.

“I also hope to see those who have perpetrated this outrage brought to justice,” he said in that statement. “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.”

Declaring that everybody at the UN was shocked and dismayed at the death and injury to both Iraqis and international staff, Mr. Annan said: “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.”