- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2003

NEW YORK — The business of the United Nations came to a standstill for 30 minutes yesterday as 2,000 U.N. staffers, joined by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Security Council ambassadors, marched in silent tribute to their fallen colleagues.

Another 3,000 U.N. staff members, many in tears and carrying white roses, marched earlier in the day in Geneva to remember those who died in last week’s bombing of the world body’s Baghdad headquarters.

Tributes at the two largest U.N. offices and at smaller U.N. missions around the world put a spotlight on the close ties among U.N. staffers and the anger of many members that more wasn’t done to protect at least 23 persons who died, including top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The U.N. Staff Union, which organized the silent marches, demanded “a full and independent investigation to determine why adequate security was not in place at United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.”

The union’s standing committee on security issued a statement after the march demanding to know why so many U.N. personnel were in Baghdad despite a high-level security alert. The committee again called on Mr. Annan to suspend all U.N. operations in Iraq and withdraw staff “until such time as measures are taken to improve security.”

Mr. Annan, wearing a black suit and tie, walked alongside Catherine Bertini, the U.N.’s chief financial officer, around the traffic circle in front of the 39-story Secretariat Building. The head of U.N. peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, and the head of its political affairs department, Kieran Prendergast, also joined the march.

Mr. Annan has said repeatedly that the United Nations won’t leave Iraq because of the attack. But the secretary-general said he was reassessing security issues — and Mr. Prendergast indicated that a much wider reappraisal is under way.

“It can’t be business as usual,” Mr. Prendergast told the Associated Press, “and we are going to have to assess very thoroughly and very carefully and in no great rush what are the full implications for the United Nations of our future activities and profile in Iraq.”

His special assistant, Richard Hooper of Walnut Creek, Calif., was among the victims. “He was doing what he wanted to do which I suppose is some very, very slight consolation but not much,” Mr. Prendergast said.

Guy Candusso, an officer in the Staff Union, carried a placard that read, “When will it end? It must.” He said the Baghdad bombing highlights “the need for security in the field.”

“It was certainly a mistake not to have more eye on security,” said Mary Hughes, a member of the union’s security committee. She carried a placard saying, “We will never forget you.”

The march in New York took place before the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution aimed at protecting U.N. staff and humanitarian workers.

Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, said he wanted to show solidarity with the U.N. family and its tradition of “selfless devotion.”

“We commit ourselves both to stay in Iraq, but also to make sure the people who are abroad to work for the U.N. … are offered the protection that they are entitled to and which we all feel they deserve,” he said.

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