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UN marks 2nd anniversary of Baghdad terror attack

With worldwide ceremonies, UN marks 2nd anniversary of Baghdad terror attack

From its Headquarters in New York to front-line missions in the field, from solemn minutes of silence to impassioned tribute to the fallen, the entire United Nations system today marked the second anniversary of the deadly terrorist attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad, one of the darkest days in the world body's history.

“Our fallen colleagues, taken from us in the prime of their lives, embodied our Organization’s ideals,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message. The bombing killed 22 people, including the top UN envoy in Iraq and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello, and injured hundreds.

“They were courageous and unstinting in their devotion to helping people in impoverished and war-torn lands build better lives. Their commitment and achievements made all of us proud to work for the United Nations,” he added.

“The question of justice lingers, too, as no one has been held to account for this crime, offering yet another appalling example of the impunity that so often follows assaults on United Nations personnel around the world, be they peacekeepers, humanitarian workers or others.”

In Baghdad, almost within site of the ruins of the Canal Hotel where the terrorists struck, Mr. Annan's Special Representative Ashraf Qazi and staff of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) gathered to lay a wreath and observe a moment of silence in honour of the victims.

Mr. Qazi described UNAMI’s expanding activities as a tribute to the memory of those lives lived and sacrificed to the promotion of peace, reconciliation and justice in Iraq. “We must and will work together with the people and government of Iraq to deliver on our mandate and promises to the best of our capability,” he said.

On behalf of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Ja'fari, his spokesman Leith Kubbah thanked the UN for the efforts made in and for the war-torn country Iraq. The dean of the diplomatic corps, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, expressed his deepest respect for the sacrifices made by the UN in Iraq and elsewhere.

At UN Headquarters in New York Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette laid a wreath in front of the memorial plaque to the victims in the General Assembly lobby, next to the tattered UN flag that flew above the Canal Hotel in Baghdad on 19 August 2003.

The 15-member Security Council stood in silence in honour of the fallen. “On behalf of the Security Council I would like to pay tribute once again to those who lost their lives or were injured,” the Council President for August, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, said in a statement afterwards to the press.

“The Security Council strongly condemns the continuing terrorist attacks against, amongst others, the representatives of the international community in Iraq,” he added. Members of the Council express their support and encouragement for the United Nations personnel continuing to work in Iraq in spite of all the difficulties and dangers that present themselves.

Survivors of the attack and families, friends and colleagues of the victims were gathering at the Church Center, a non-denominational space opposite the building to reflect silently or share informally memories, experiences, pictures and recollections.

From the massive Headquarters building to the smallest UN outpost in distant countries that the world body is helping recover from war and natural disaster, a minute of silence was observed at different times throughout the day.

In Kabul, where the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is involved in all aspects of efforts to rehabilitate a country riven by decades of occupation and civil war, staffers paid tribute to their colleagues who fell in another war-torn land.

At the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva a ceremony in the Salle des Pas Perdus commemorated the occasion. At other outposts Mr. Annan’s message was read out.

As the Secretary-General said, “The 19th of August will always be a date laden with sorrow for the United Nations – and for me personally. It is an occasion to reflect on what those we lost endured, and how we can best honour their legacy. It is also a day to be thankful for the light they brought into our world.”

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