Beirut, 22 August (United Nations Information Service)--"Today,
we gather with enormous grief and pain in our hearts to mourn the
loss of our beloved colleagues and friends. They fell in Iraq
while assisting the Iraqi people to recover their independence and
sovereignty and rebuild their country," said Mervat Tallawy,
Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social
Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) this morning.
Tallawy was speaking at an official ceremony organized by the UN
System agencies accredited to Lebanon at the UN House in Beirut to
remember and mourn Sergio Vieria de Mello, the Special
Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to Iraq and
the other UN staff who lost their lives in the attack against the
world body’s headquarters in Baghdad Tuesday.
"Our colleagues and friends were fully aware of the risks, the
challenges and the hardship awaiting them. Nevertheless, they went
to Iraq. This is the spirit of the international civil servant
that draws strength from the principles enshrined in the Charter
of the United Nations," Tallawy said.
"It is difficult, if not impossible, to thank those United Nations
martyrs for having given up their lives. But we owe it to their
memory to continue the work that they began," she added.
Quoting United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Tallawy
concluded by saying, "we will not be deterred. We will continue to
do whatever we can to help build a better future for the Iraqi
people. Only by carrying on with our mission can we begin to do
justice to the memory of our slain colleagues."
Attending the ceremony were Minister of Administrative Development
Karim Pakradoni on behalf of the Lebanese President of the
Republic; Parliament Member Adnan Arakji who represented the
Lebanese House Speaker; Finance Minister Fouad Signora on behalf
of the Lebanese Prime Minister as well as Minister of Economy and
Trade Marwan Hamadeh, Information Minister Michel Samaha,
Parliament Members, the diplomatic corps in Lebanon, the staff of
the United Nations and civil society representatives.
In a statement addressed on behalf of President Lahoud of Lebanon,
Minister Pakradoni said that the act against the UN Headquarters
in Baghdad was a murderous act. "It not only hurt the United
Nations but also the Middle East and Lebanon," he pointed out.
Pakradoni, who also expressed Lebanon’s deepest sorrow for the
family of de Mello and the other victims’ families, said this act
threatened Iraq’s security, stability and unity as well as its
people’s right to self determination.
Following the ceremony, participants signed the condolence book
opened for the occasion at the entry of the UN House.
President Lahoud, who was among the first leaders to condemn the
attack, had contacted ESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tallawy
Wednesday to present his condolences and express solidarity with
the United Nations and Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The United Nations staff in Lebanon are expected to gather this
evening for a candle light vigil at the Gibran-Khalil-Gibran
public garden facing the UN House in Beirut to pay tribute to
their colleagues who died in the Baghdad attack. During the
evening gathering, statements and poems will be read to launch a
message of hope.