Secretary-General Kofi Annan today mourned the death of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, stabbed in a Stockholm department store yesterday, as a great loss for the United Nations of a strong ally and unapologetic multilateralist.
"She was a great leader, independent, courageous and a true internationalist," Mr. Annan told reporters at UN headquarters in Geneva, where he is to meet with the Foreign Ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council on Saturday to seek the speedy restoration of sovereignty to the Iraqi people.
"The last time I spoke to Anna was barely a month ago when she called to offer her sympathy about the tragedy in Baghdad, which took away wonderful colleagues and friends, and we have mourned them together," he said, referring to the terrorist attack that killed top UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others last month. "And incredibly, today it is Anna that we mourn."
In a formal statement also issued in Geneva, the Secretary-General said: "Sweden has lost a successful and great Foreign Minister, a great Swede and a great European. I have also lost a close friend and so has the United Nations."
Asked in Geneva what Ms. Lindh meant for the UN, Mr. Annan replied: "I think for the United Nations we had a strong ally, somebody who really believed in the Charter, believed in what the United Nations stood for, and generally believed that countries have to work across borders and cooperate to get things done. And in fact, I think she was one of those unapologetic multilateralists, and we will miss her."
As for how he remembered her personally, and as a politician in the international field compared to other politicians, he said: "Above all, she was dynamic, she was herself, without pretensions, and very able. I've seen her with her sons, so I've seen her as a mother. I've seen her defend position of Sweden in Europe very effectively in international circles. And I've seen how she has played her role as a prominent politician in Europe. So combining her efforts in these three areas shows you what a woman she was. I don't think many of us men could do that."
Asked how the murder might change Sweden, Mr. Annan said: "Sweden has always been an open society, people were free to go about their business, and I really hope this tragic incident will not change that. Obviously, one will have to take measures. I'm not saying one should be reckless but I hope it doesn't change that wonderful open spirit and open society that is Sweden."
For his part the President of the General Assembly, of the Czech Republic, said he was "appalled by this senseless death."
"I remember her as a warm and lovely human being, an excellent diplomat, a great European, a passionate social democrat and a wonderful woman with whom I share her vision of a socially just and peaceful world based on solidarity and tolerance," he added.