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UN Pays Tribute to Sergio Vieira de Mello, Killed in Baghdad Attack - 2003-08-22

The remains of the top United Nations' envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, are being flown from Baghdad to his home town of Rio de Janeiro aboard a Brazilian presidential plane

Before the plane carrying the body of Sergio Vieira de Mello left Iraq, U.N. staff there paid tribute to the Brazilian-born diplomat who was killed, along with more than 20 others, in Tuesday's car-bomb attack at the U.N.'s Baghdad headquarters. Many more were injured in the blast.

The U.N. officials praised Mr. Vieira de Mello's dedication to the United Nations and expressed their determination to remain in Iraq.

In New York, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters that Mr. Vieira de Mello, in his final words, stressed the need to continue the United Nations mission to Iraq.

"Vieira de Mello was so committed to the United Nations until his last breath," he said, "that even when he was pinned down under the rubble of his office, under the most extreme pain, he told the officer who was trying to rescue him: "Do not let them pull the mission out."

Mr. Vieira de Mello's chief of staff, Egyptian-born Nadia Younes, was also killed in the attack. Many other victims have yet to be identified. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has sent a team to Baghdad to assess the security situation, while an investigation into the blast gets underway.

The secretary-general discussed the security situation in Iraq in meetings this week with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

"There is no doubt that we will have to strengthen our security," said Mr. Annan. "We may have to adjust our ways of operating on the ground and we would also need to take a look at United Nations operations elsewhere in the world."

Mr. Annan said the United Nations will work with the Coalition Authority to improve security for U.N. operations in Iraq.