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Asian Leaders React Angrily to UN Envoy's Death - 2003-08-20

Leaders in the Asia-Pacific region are reacting with anger to the news that the senior United Nations envoy in Iraq was among the 17 people killed in the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. Sergio Vieira de Mello was a well-known and much respected figure in the region.

Nowhere is the legacy of Sergio Vieira de Mello greater than in the world's newest nation - East Timor. The charismatic United Nations official was credited with helping guide the tiny nation to independence after its bloody breakaway from Indonesia.

East Timor's President Xanana Guasmao on Wednesday said his nation had lost a unique and unforgettable friend. Flags in East Timor are flying at half staff in memory of the 55-year-old Brazilian.

Some U.N. officials say that in part because of his performance in East Timor, Mr. Vieira de Mello had been considered a possible future U.N. Secretary-General.

The U.N. veteran was on leave from his post as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to serve as head of the Baghdad delegation. He died Tuesday in an apparent suicide bomb attack on the U.N.'s offices in Baghdad that killed at least 20 people.

In Afghanistan, where the United Nations is working with international peacekeeping troops to rebuild the country, U.N. workers say Mr. Vieira de Mello's death will not stop their efforts.

"We are obviously very shocked with what happened in Baghdad," said David Singh, the U.N. spokesman in Kabul. "I think as he said quite recently humanitarian workers are there to improve living conditions of the people and what happened in Baghdad is indeed a terrible tragedy. Regarding the impact in Afghanistan we continue to carry our program here. "

China's President Hu Jintao, in a statement on the Foreign Ministry's Web site, says he is deeply shocked by the bombing.

President Hu says China wants to work with others to make sure the United Nations continues its humanitarian work in Iraq.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, on a state visit to Poland, denounced the bombing.

Mr. Koizumi says he is angry at "this hateful terrorist act" against the people of Iraq. He says the victims were among those at the forefront trying to support the Iraqi people.

In Cambodia, Mr. Vieira de Mello played a key role in efforts in the early 1990's that ended decades of war. He is credited with convincing tens of thousands of Cambodian refugees to return to their homes in time for U.N.-backed elections in 1993.

The head of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, Sam Sotha, was a friend of Mr. Vieira de Mello, and called him a "great person who made a tremendous contribution to clearing the mines in Cambodia."