26 August 2003


NEW YORK, 25 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the memorial service of Sergio Vieira de Mello in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 23 August:

I thank you all for being here today, as we mourn the loss of a dear friend of mine, a beloved son of Brazil, and a great servant of the United Nations.

The people of Mozambique, of Lebanon, of Cambodia, of Bosnia and Herzegovina, of the Congo, of Kosovo -- of many countries, on almost every continent, and perhaps most of all the people of Timor-Leste -- will remember him as one who was there to help them in their hour of greatest need, to relieve human suffering and to champion human rights.

I believe the people of Iraq, too, will look back on him with gratitude.  His work there is left unfinished.  But, please God, we shall complete it.  His dying wish was that the United Nations Mission there should not be pulled out.  Let us respect that.  Let Sergio, who has given his life in that cause, find a fitting memorial in a free and sovereign Iraq.

As for you, the people of Brazil, your flag is flying at half mast today, because you have lost one of your finest sons.  But in the future that flag, which Sergio made known in many countries by the T-shirt he wore when he went out running, should fly even higher than before.  He has served you well by serving the world, and you have every right to be proud.

We at the United Nations claim our share in that pride, too. 

We cannot accept that Sergio had to die at this time, in this way, or that anything good can come of it.  We cannot accept that all his brilliance, his energy, his devotion to his staff and his loyalty to the ideals of the United Nations, have been so abruptly taken from us.  Indeed we can imagine nothing more cruel, or pointless, or unjust. 

But when we contemplate his sacrifice, and that of the comrades who died with him -- when we remember that they gave their lives for principle, and peace, and reconciliation -- then we, too, can hold our heads a little higher; and we are proud to work for the same Organization that they served.

Sergio, my friend, you have entered that Pantheon of heroes that the United Nations wishes it did not have.  You will shine forever among our brightest stars.  May you rest in peace.

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