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In the News
Last Updated: 08/25/2003UN stands firm in IRAQ
In this issue we look at the reports worldwide of the bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad August 20-25, 2003, and the immediate aftermath. We find that the UN is refusing to give ground.
UN ATTACKED IN BAGHDAD, 19 AUGUST 2003: NEWS REPORTS
UN reassessing security in Iraq after attack but will persevere undaunted – Annan
20 August – Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today the United Nations was reassessing security arrangements in Iraq following the terrorist attack Tuesday in Baghdad that killed top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and other officials, but vowed that the world body would persevere with its essential work there undaunted.
“We will persevere. We will continue. It is essential work. We will not be intimidated,” Mr. Annan told a news conference in Stockholm on his way back to New York, where he is scheduled to brief the Security Council this afternoon after cancelling his holiday in Europe because of the bombing.
“We had hoped that by now, the coalition forces would have secured the environment for us to be able to carry on,” Mr. Annan said, referring to the United States-run provisional authority. “That has not happened.”
The Secretary-General said the UN was reassessing its security arrangements in Iraq, adding: “Some mistakes may have been made, some wrong assumptions may have been made, but that does not excuse nor justify the kind of senseless violence that we are seeing in Iraq today. Most Iraqi people would want to get on with their lives.”
“These extremists who are targeting innocent civilians are not doing their nation or the people of Iraq any service,” he said.
Roger Hardy provides analysis for the BBC. He argues that Iraq is now the focus of all kinds of so-called terrorist groups from outside Iraq who wish to attack the US. However, he also argues that homegrown groups are in plentiful supply who have been angered by the UN’s interference and sanctions over the last ten years or so.
Truthout provides a cross section of news reports and comment including CNN, NY Times and China sources.
TIMES OF INDIA
Reports that UN staff would be evacuated to Jordan but this was unconfirmed.
Also reported that all world leaders joined together in their condemnation of the attack.
The French agency AFP describes the devastation and search for bodies in graphic detail. It also notes that security had been the responsibility of a private firm.
OBITUARY OF SERGIO VIEIRA DE MELLO
Several obituaries appear in the world’s press. The Telegraph of London describes him as tough and debonair. Kofi Annan and George W Bush were in full agreement about his appointment to the post as UN chief in Iraq..
The Guardian carries an obituary in which de Mello is described as: “urbane, dapper, polyglot, accessible, non-bureaucratic, hardworking , and super-smart, he was a walking advertisement for the UN.”
Annan meets US Secretary of State Powell on Baghdad terrorist bombing
21 August – Secretary-General Kofi Annan moved on two fronts today – the diplomatic and the emotional – to confront the crisis stemming from the terrorist bombing of United Nations headquarters in Iraq, discussing reinforced security with top United States officials and consoling the UN family worldwide in its grief.
Mr. Annan met with US Secretary of State Colin Powell at UN Headquarters in New York to discuss measures that needed to be taken following Tuesday’s deadly bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad which killed top UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 22 others, and injured scores.
Rushing back to New York from a European holiday yesterday, the Secretary-General already declared that he would seek reinforced security for the UN operations in Iraq and emphasized that it was the duty of the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to provide all necessary protection following their occupation of the country.
Later today he was due to meet Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of the United Kingdom, the main partner of the United States in the war and occupation of Iraq.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack Mr. Annan has vowed that the world body would not be intimidated or deterred from its mission of helping the Iraqi people rebuild their war-torn country and recover their sovereignty.
On the home front, within the UN family, the Secretary-General was continuing today with a series of meetings and messages to bind the wounds of grieving staff at the loss of colleagues and friends. This morning he was due to address all staff at Headquarters in New York and UN offices around the world in a videoconference.
“The best way to honour our colleagues who are dead, and those who are wounded, and those who are trapped with the trauma they went through in Baghdad, is to continue the work they had begun, is to focus on that mission with the clear determination to do what we are in Iraq to do,” Mr. Annan declared at a candlelight vigil last night in New York.
“That is the best way to honour them and make sure their death has not been in vain,” he added.
Stressing that it was “wonderful” that the attendees at the vigil were coming together as a family, he said: “These are wonderful colleagues and friends, who went to Iraq with only one mission: To help the Iraqi people restore their country, to help them bring about peace, to help stabilize Iraq. They were killed in a brutal, senseless way which none of us can understand.”
22 August 2003
UN is undaunted according to Secretary-General
Annan urges bigger UN Iraq role: The secretary general of the United Nations has called for the organisation to be given a broader mandate in Iraq.
The United States would otherwise find it "very difficult" to pass a new resolution at the UN Security Council on expanding military forces on the ground, Kofi Annan said.
He was speaking in New York after talks with UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who earlier ruled out any diluting of US military leadership in Iraq.
Mr Annan also said that the UN was largely counting on the US-led coalition to provide its staff with security in Iraq since Tuesday's bomb attack on its Baghdad offices.
"It is not excluded that the [Security] Council may decide to transform the operation into a UN-mandated, multinational force operating on the ground with other governments coming in," he said.
"It would imply not just burden-sharing but also sharing decisions and responsibility with the others. If that doesn't happen, I think it is going to be very difficult to get a second resolution that will satisfy everybody."
The BBC's Greg Barrow reports from the UN that many countries have expressed a willingness to assist in Iraq but they do not want the stigma of serving under an occupying force which has yet to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
Mr Straw said on Thursday that the US must keep command of the joint military force in Iraq to maintain "an effective military operation".
The UN secretary general called for all further discussions on the new resolution in Iraq to be held behind closed doors.
The body of the UN's envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was flown out of Iraq on Friday for a wake in Brazil before his funeral in France.
Mr Vieira de Mello was killed along with at least 21 others in Tuesday's unprecedented attack on the UN, which was apparently a suicide bombing.
Mr Annan confirmed that a UN team was heading for Baghdad on Friday to assess the security situation for staff there.
"We will need to work with the coalition that has the capacity and has the responsibility for law and order in Iraq to give us their help," he added.
Peacekeepers, not occupiers
A French deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Michel Duclos, said earlier that the coalition must share "information and authority" if it was to win military support from other states.
Axel Poniatovski, a member of the foreign affairs committee in the French National Assembly, told the BBC that it was "difficult to understand why the US, today, wouldn't want to be under a UN mandate".
Hisham Yusuf, a spokesman for the Arab League, said Arab states might consider contributing troops but not while the US-led occupation continued.
In Islamic Iran, former president and leading cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani echoed the sentiment in a Friday Prayers sermon:
"If the UN is put in charge, many great countries around the world will help. The Russians will come. The Germans will come. The French will come. The Indians will come. Islamic countries will come. They will try to somehow solve the problem that the Americans have created, the tragedy that they have brought upon our region."
Mr Straw said on Friday that nobody was telling the Security Council what to do.
"We want a consensus," he said after his talks with Kofi Annan, "and we're consulting here and with governments in their capital cities."
PLANNED MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE FOR IRAQ
Multi-national force: This will be the largest mission of its kind to take place without UN co-ordination or central Nato command
Cost : US reportedly expected to pay partner nations a total of more than $200m in airlift and support costs
Twenty-seven nations have sent troops:
Several nations' troops are expected:
24 August Red Cross reduces personnel numbers in Iraq
Red Cross cuts Iraq operations
The International Committee of the Red Cross is cutting back its operations in Iraq after warnings that it could be targeted for attack.
The number of foreign staff in Baghdad is being reduced to about 50 as the level of violence throughout the country has failed to abate and the organisation fears that US-led forces cannot ensure security.
"It's a very difficult decision. It's a heartbreaking decision for us to reduce our staff," Nada Doumani of the ICRC told the BBC.
"We believe these warnings are to be taken seriously... It's very depressing for the Iraqis to realise that after four months... they don't feel safe in their own country."
The Red Cross tends to stay put when everyone else goes, so its decision to reduce staff is likely to be followed by other agencies, the BBC's Susannah Price in Baghdad says.
Different organisations are reviewing their operations, following Tuesday's bombing of the United Nations compound in Baghdad, in which more than 20 people died.
Attacks against Iraqi civilians have also continued, with three killed and nine injured in an assassination attempt on leading Shia Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Seyed Mohammed Said al-Hakim in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf.
The cleric received only scratches in the blast at his office on Sunday afternoon but two of his bodyguards and a driver were killed.
The Red Cross has suffered its own losses with the death of two workers.
The organisation said it would be forced to cut services further if the threat to its staff remained.
The ICRC in Baghdad is involved in a number of key operations which include:
Supplying hospitals with medical equipment and drugs
Visiting those detained by the American forces
Helping families trace missing relatives
Supplying the only hospital in Baghdad for the mentally ill
The UN, which lost its top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello in the Baghdad compound blast, has sent non-essential administrative staff out of the country.
In another development on Sunday, medical personnel working for Spain's Movement for Peace, Disarmament and Liberty returned from Iraq.
"Baghdad is a lawless city," said Doctor Gabriel Espana on arrival in Madrid.
The assassination attempt on Ayatollah al-Hakim took place when a device connected to a gas canister went off near his office after he had just returned from midday prayers.
A spokesman for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) - a leading Shia Muslim organisation - said a strange man had been seen before the blast. Disarmament and Liberty - medics returned to Spain
One Shia official, Mohsen al-Hakim, said the prime suspects for the attack were Saddam loyalists wishing to stir up trouble between Shia and Sunni Muslims.
However, Ayatollah al-Hakim was one of a group of three top Shia leaders issued death threats by a rival Shia cleric shortly after Saddam Hussein was toppled on 9 April.
Our correspondent says it seems likely the attack was linked to a power struggle within the Shia community.
Ayatollah al-Hakim is a leading member of the Hawza, the leading Shia seminary in Iraq.
The Hawza is led by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, whom the US-led coalition praises for his moderate views.
But more hardline Shia groups have made their opposition to the coalition forces clear, our correspondent says.
While I am deeply sorry for the death of one very high and respected UN member,
25 August 2003