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Sergio Vieira de Mello Buried in Geneva - 2003-08-28


The slain head of the U.N. mission in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, has been buried in Geneva during a moving ceremony that paid tribute to his work for humanitarian causes. Hundreds of family members, friends and U.N. colleagues gathered at St. Paul's Roman Catholic church in the heart of Geneva to pay their last respects to Brazilian envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, a man noted for his diplomatic skill and devotion to the service for peace.

Mr. Vieira de Mello, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's special representative to Iraq, was killed in a suicide bomb attack at the organization's headquarters in Baghdad last week. Nine more U.N. staff members and at least 13 other people died in the blast, which injured more than 100 people.

During the service, which combined, contemporary and classical music, U.N. refugee agency staffer David Lambo told the mourners that Sergio Vieria de Mello devoted his past 30 years of U.N. service to bring peace to the world's most dangerous hotspots.

"Sergio could never stand still," he recalled. "All his life he used his enormous skills and talents in the pursuance of peace and the rebuilding of nations, from Bangladesh and Sudan through Cambodia, the Great Lakes, Kosovo and ending in Timor and Iraq. Apart from the boundless energy, he was totally unwilling to be intimidated by any mission or task, however difficult. He always thought there was a way through any problem."

Mr. Vieira de Mello served as the U.N. chief envoy to Kosovo after NATO bombers drove the Serbian army out of the former Yugoslavian province in 1999. In East Timor, he guided the country to its first democratic elections.

The Brazilian diplomat had taken a leave of absence from his position as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva to serve in Baghdad. Just before his death he told a Brazilian newspaper that he felt no danger in Iraq as he did in other places where he worked for the United Nations. His wish was for the United Nations to remain in Iraq.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who attended weekend memorial services for Mr. Vieira de Mello in Brazil, was represented at the funeral by his wife, Nane.

The Geneva authorities requested the Brazilian diplomat be buried in the city's Cemetery of Kings, where 16th century religious reformer John Calvin and Argentine novelist and Nobel prize winner Jorge Luis Borges are also buried.

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