Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 1 News List

UN vows to maintain presence in Iraq despite blast

BOMBING AFTERMATH Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the world body will persevere in the face of an explosion that killed its envoy in Baghdad and 19 others

AP , BAGHDAD

US soldiers stand guard near a destroyed vehicle yesterday at the site of Tuesday's bombing at the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

PHOTO: AP

FBI agents led the search for clues in the rubble of a bombed UN compound in Baghdad yesterday, while UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the deadly attack that killed his top envoy to Iraq would not drive the world body out of the country.

UN workers were told to stay at home yesterday after a cement truck packed with explosives blew up outside the offices of the top UN envoy in Iraq. The unprecedented attack against the world body killed the envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 19 others, and wounded at least 100 people.

Annan said he was to meet with the Security Council later in the day to discuss security arrangements for UN workers in Iraq.

"We will persevere. We will continue. It is essential work," Annan told reporters in Stockholm, Sweden, where he stopped briefly before heading to UN headquarters in New York.

"We will not be intimidated," he said.

"We have been in Iraq for 12 years and we have never been attacked," Annan said.

He said the UN would re-evaluate its security measures.

Unlike US occupation forces, the UN had been welcomed by many Iraqis and there was no clear indication of who was behind the attack on the three-story Canal Hotel and no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

"We don't yet know for sure whether this was a suicide bombing. The Iraqi police are busy with their investigation and I'm sure when they have some information to announce the chief of police, Ahmed Ibrahim, will announce that," said top US official Paul Bremer.

"There are at least two hypotheses," he told NBC Television, saying one blamed remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime and the other insurgents from overseas.

World leaders condemned the attack. Some nations raised fears of more attacks and others suggested Washington end its occupation of Iraq.

China's President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) urged the UN to continue its mission to rebuild the nation and Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder blamed the attack on "forces that do not want the rebuilding of Iraq to take place in peace and freedom."

Iraq's Governing Council, which blamed the attack on members of former president Saddam's regime aided by militants from outside Iraq, declared three days of mourning.

Council member Ahmad Chalabi told reporters a monument to Vieira de Mello would be built.

"There is a feeling, based on accumulated data from the past, that it is the remnants of Saddam's regime and their friends [behind the attack]," Chalabi said, indicating he was including al-Qaeda by using the word friends.

Hopes of finding survivors was fading yesterday and the rescue operation was turning into a grim search for the bodies of the many people unaccounted for at the heavily damaged UN headquarters.

Heavy machinery was pulling up the smashed pieces of the building, strewn by the blast.

"There are so many people who are still missing," said Veronique Taveau, a spokeswoman for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator.

A cement truck detonated at the concrete wall outside the three-story Canal Hotel at 4:30pm Tuesday, blasting a 1.8m-deep crater in the ground, shredding the facade of the hotel housing UN offices and stunning an organization that had been welcomed by many Iraqis.

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