Declaring "we shall not be deterred," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan rushed back to New York today to consult with the Security Council on the terrorist attack in Baghdad that killed top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, seeking greater security but determined to continue the world body's mission in Iraq.
"We will carry on our work," a sombre but resolute Mr. Annan told reporters at UN Headquarters as he arrived from Europe where he cancelled his holiday as soon as he heard of the bombing of the UN compound Tuesday in Baghdad that killed Mr. Vieira de Mello and at least 15 others and injured scores more.
"As I have indicated, we shall not be deterred. We do have a responsibility to help stabilize Iraq. The stability of Iraq is in the interests not just of the Iraqis, but of the entire region, and of the international community, the entire world. It is a responsibility of all of us and we are going to keep at it until we succeed," he added.
Even before boarding his plane for the flight to New York, Mr. Annan told reporters at Stockholm airport: "We will persevere, we will continue our work. It's essential work and we are not going to be intimidated."
And in a video message to all UN staff he said: "Many of us will remember the 19th of August as the darkest day in our lives at the United Nations." He called the bombing attack "an act so savage and senseless that we can hardly believe it really happened. It feels like a nightmare, from which we are still hoping to wake. If only it were," he added.
"Only by carrying on with our mission can we begin to do justice to the memory of our slain colleagues," he concluded.
In an exchange with reporters in New York, the Secretary-General stressed that the UN had a mandate from the Security Council to establish a new UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) to coordinate the world body's humanitarian and other activities there.
"Obviously we are going to reassess certain things. It will be necessary, I am sure, to reassess and strengthen our security arrangements and that process has already begun," he said. "We are assessing the situation and are going to make a judgment what additional requirements in terms of security and others that we will need and I will demand that of the Council," he added when asked about the consultations scheduled for later this afternoon.
Mr. Annan said he did not know if reports that the UN had turned down an offer from the United States-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq for additional protection were correct, but if so, it was wrong.
"That kind of decision should not be left to the protected. It is those who have responsibility for security and law and order, who have intelligence, who determine what action is taken," he stressed. "I don't know if the UN did turn down an offer of protection, but if it did, it was not correct, and they should not have been allowed to turn it down."
He said he had discussed the situation in phone calls with United States President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov among other world leaders.
Both in Stockholm and New York he emphasized how difficult it was to guard against terrorist attacks but also stressed that security was the responsibility of the CPA, although he added that he did not want to get into finger-pointing.
"When you have this kind of terrorist attacks, you never know where it is going to come from and I'm not sure if one can entirely protect against it," he told reporters in New York. "But in the broader sense, to secure the environment is the responsibility of the coalition."