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Annan stresses need to take security threats seriously, protect aid workers

Annan stresses need to take security threats seriously, protect aid workers

Reflecting on the year since a terrorist's bomb destroyed United Nations offices in Iraq and killed more than 20 people, the worst attack deliberately aimed at the world body in its history, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today stressed the importance of taking seriously future threats and as well as the need for preventive measures to protect aid workers posted in dangerous parts of the world.

"I think the anniversary, in a way, reminds all of us of the wonderful colleagues and friends that we lost," Mr. Annan said in response to reporters' questions about the 19 August 2003 bombing which killed 22 people, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was Mr. Annan's Special Representative for Iraq, and injured scores more.

"It reminds us of what a dangerous environment UN staff have to work in around the world. It reminds us of the need to take greater precautions on security, and it reminds us of the fact that the blue flag cannot be assumed to protect us any longer," he said.

"But above all, we will be thinking of those who are no longer with us, and also will be looking forward as to how we plan to protect those who are with us and are taking risks daily, going out into distant places to assist those in need," he added.

As for reports that buildings in New York City, Washington, DC, and elsewhere were targets of recent security threats, Mr. Annan said the UN takes warnings very seriously while continuing its normal operations. "We need to take precautions, but we need to get on with our work and our lives, and this is exactly what we are doing."

Meanwhile, the UN announced that it will hold ceremonies in New York and Geneva on 19 August to commemorate the first anniversary of the bombing.

In New York, the Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, will be present at the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to fallen staffers, while Mr. Annan is expected to preside over a similar ceremony in Geneva. The two ceremonies will be connected by live video-link.

The commemorative plaque and the UN flag that flew over the Canal Hotel, which served as the world body's office in Baghdad, will be mounted in the Visitors' Lobby of the UN complex in New York.