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Annan backs protecting UN workers conflict zones

Annan hails Security Council text on protecting UN workers in conflict zones

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today hailed a Security Council resolution on the protection of United Nations personnel and other workers serving in conflict zones, saying the measure would send an unambiguous message to those who target the "servants of humanity."

Speaking at the outset of the Council's meeting on the issue, the Secretary-General noted that again and again, peacekeepers or unarmed civilians, who have voluntarily gone in dangerous areas to help, have been "deliberately targeted by armed factions seeking to make a political point or a military gain, or to intimidate the international community.

"Last week's vicious attack on our headquarters in Baghdad, with all its tragic consequences, has brought this vital issue to the forefront of our priorities. It shows us what we must expect if we allow the impression to continue gaining ground that international workers are a soft and cost-free target," he added.

Urging Council members to adopt the timely draft resolution and voicing hope that it would be passed unanimously, Mr. Annan said: "In so doing, you will send an unambiguous message to all those who mistakenly believe that, in today's turbulent world, they can advance their cause by targeting the servants of humanity.

"And if you succeed in strengthening the security of United Nations staff, you will not only do what, in all conscience, is your duty," he added. "You will also increase the authority and the effectiveness of this Council, by making clear that you are determined to protect those whom you send into the field to implement your decisions."

The Secretary-General also urged countries in whose territories attacks against UN personnel have been committed to take practical and effective steps to investigate and prosecute those responsible for such crimes, and exhorted nations to sign, ratify, and accede to the Convention for the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.

"It is, of course, a fact of life that much of our work is done in dangerous places, since that is where it is most sorely needed," he said. "But that only strengthens the obligation on all of us to take every step in our power to protect those working under the blue flag, and to bring to justice those who attack or harm them…Impunity for those who commit such unpardonable crimes cannot stand. There must be action."

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