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UN Appoints Team to Investigate Baghdad Security Lapses - 2003-11-04

Two senior U.N. officials have been relieved of duty while a panel determines who was responsible for lapses that left U.N. offices in Iraq vulnerable to attack.

Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed a team of experts to assess the blame for what is described as the failure of the entire U.N. security system. The panel will be headed by former deputy U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Gerald Walzer and will include Assistant Commissioner of the Irish National Police Kevin Carty.

Mr. Annan named the panel after an independent commission concluded that a dysfunctional security system had contributed to unnecessary casualties in bomb attacks on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. One of the attacks, on August 19, killed 22 people, including Special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, and injured 150 others.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarrac says two senior officials in charge of security, including the acting head of the Baghdad mission, have been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

"Mr. Ramiro Lopes da Silva, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq, and Mr. Tun Myat, U.N. Security Coordinator, have asked to be relieved of their present responsibilities while the team conducts its work," he said. "Accordingly, the Secretary-General has decided that they will take special leave until mid-January."

Mr. Dujarrac said the Secretary General has appointed Undersecretary for Management Catherine Bertini as Security Chief pending the outcome of the investigation.

Mr. Annan last week ordered all foreign U.N. staff to leave Baghdad, at least temporarily. That leaves only about 40 international U.N. employees in Iraq, almost all of them in the north, which is considered safer.

Mr. Annan also ordered a complete reorganization of the world body's security apparatus. The reorganization is to be led by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette, who was herself among those criticized in the original report on the Baghdad bombings.

Spokesman Dujarrac said Mr. Annan continues to have full confidence in Ms. Frechette.