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UN Names Humanitarian Relief Official Interim Representative for Iraq - 2003-12-09

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is naming a veteran humanitarian relief official as his interim special envoy to Iraq.

U.N. officials confirm that New Zealander Ross Mountain is being appointed special envoy to Iraq until a permanent envoy is named, probably next month. The appointment will be announced Wednesday, when the secretary-general delivers his report on Iraq to the Security Council.

Mr. Mountain is a 30-year U.N. veteran. For the past five years, he has been director of the office for coordination of humanitarian affairs in Geneva, and assistant emergency relief coordinator.

He takes over a post that has been vacant since former Special Envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello died last August. Mr. Vieira de Mello was among 22 people killed in the bomb attack on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

After that attack and another soon afterward, Secretary-General Annan ordered international staff out of Baghdad. Since then, however, he has been under increasing pressure to name a new special representative, and to quickly restore a U.N. presence in the Iraqi capital.

In the meantime, however, Mr. Annan is said to be considering a plan to base staff working on Iraq in nearby countries, possibly Cyprus or Jordan.

The report being released Wednesday is said to be a statement of the secretary-general's vision for a U.N. role in Iraq. The Security Council is scheduled to review the document next week.

Officials say Mr. Mountain's appointment as interim special envoy is to take effect immediately. After the permanent envoy is named, Mr. Mountain will stay on as deputy.