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Annan:  UN to Carry on Work in Iraq Despite Bombing - 2003-08-19


U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says the United Nations will carry on its work in Iraq, despite a bomb that ripped through the organization's Baghdad compound, killing more than a dozen people, including the head of the mission, Human Rights chief Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Mr. Annan expressed shock and dismay at the attack on the U.N. Baghdad compound and its staff. About 300 people, mostly involved with humanitarian and refugee programs, work at the compound. It is not certain how many were there at the time of the attack.

In a statement released through U.N. spokesperson Fred Eckhard, the Secretary General said he hopes those who perpetrated this outrage will be brought to justice.

"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," he said.

Mr. Annan is cutting short his vacation and will return Wednesday to U.N. headquarters in New York. U.N. missions are frequently at risk, but the magnitude of the Baghdad attack has rattled diplomats and U.N. staff members.

A senior U.N. political officer briefed the Security Council, which issued a statement condemning the bombing as a terrorist attack.

Faysaal Mekdad, the deputy representative for Syria, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, said the attack will not break the will of the international community to help the people of Iraq.

"Members of the Council reaffirm that this horrible attack aimed at undermining the vital role of the United Nations in Iraq will not affect their determination," he said. "Members of the Council will stay united against such attacks and help the Iraqi people restore peace and stability to their country. The United Nations in Iraq is on a mission of peace for the reconstruction of the country and to support the Iraqi people. Therefore, it is all the more shocking that this attack occurred."

Several Security Council diplomats spoke of the need for unity. But Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram suggested the United Nations may need to reach out further to Iraqis in the future.

"It is most regrettable that the United Nations has been targeted and obviously we need to take measures for the security of United Nations personnel," he said. "But at the same time, we need to make a greater effort to convince the Iraqi people that the United Nations is acting for their welfare and that we are a presence that is designed to help them come back to normalcy."

U.N. officials in New York say the British-U.S.-led Coalition Authority in Iraq has the primary responsibility for the compound's security.