29 August 2003


Free, Peaceful Iraq Will in Time Be Fitting Memorial to Lost Colleagues Says Secretary-General in Message to Oslo Service

NEW YORK, 28 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message for the memorial service honouring victims of the bombing of the United Nations mission in Iraq, delivered by Terje Roed-Larsen, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, in Oslo, 28 August:

Allow me to thank Norway for holding this ceremony.  It is fitting that you should do so, for Norway is a leading champion of the peacemaking and humanitarian principles of the United Nations -- the very principles at the heart of the mission in Baghdad.

Many of us will remember the 19th of August 2003 as the darkest day in our lives at the United Nations.  The attack on the United Nations mission in Baghdad will resonate in our consciousness for as long as we live.  We have seen images of colleagues carried out on stretchers from a United Nations headquarters in ruins.  In our minds' eye, we see the same colleagues as we remember them:  dynamic men and women, full of hope and laughter, of compassion; above all, of determination to help the Iraqi people rebuild their country and their State.

All this leaves us bewildered and numb.  We, whose work is so wrapped up in the tragedies of others, now face one of our own.  It is a loss almost impossible to take in.  These colleagues were not only at the peak of their careers, but in the very prime of life.  Some of them leave behind young families.  All of them leave behind a great void.  If people need an example of the United Nations family at its best and its brightest, at its most committed and most courageous, they have only to look at the men and women who perished in the Canal Hotel.

Whether clerical worker, lawyer, driver or special representative, Iraqi or international, each of these men and women made a unique and invaluable contribution to our work.  Each was committed to the human rights, sovereignty and well-being of the Iraqi people.  And many had served the needs of other peoples, too.

Each braved hardships, set aside longings for home or for a quiet life, and conquered their fears in order to help others overcome an era of terrible suffering.  Each showed the world the caring, principled face of the international civil service.  Each gave us something to be proud of.

Such qualities were embodied in their leader, and my close friend, Sergio Vieira de Mello.  His loss cannot be fathomed.  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 Sergio 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.

 We shall find a way to continue the work of Sergio and his colleagues.  I remain confident that in time they will find a fitting memorial in a free, peaceful and stable Iraq -- the cause for which they gave their lives.

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