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8/25/03 - TRIBUTE TO SERGIO VIEIRA DE MELLO - 2003-08-26


On August 19th, Baghdad terrorists turned their violence against the United Nations. With a massive truck bomb, they killed more than twenty people, including a number of international public servants and aid workers. These people, said President George W. Bush, were in Iraq “on a purely humanitarian mission”:

“Men and women in the targeted building were working on reconstruction, medical care for Iraqis. They were there to help with the distribution of food.”

Those killed included the head of the U-N mission in Baghdad, Sergio Vieira de Mello. As President Bush pointed out, Mr. Vieira de Mello “committed his life to advancing the cause of human rights, most recently as U-N High Commissioner for Human Rights.” But when U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan asked him to be his special representative for Iraq, said Mr. Bush, “he agreed without hesitation.”

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Mr. Vieira de Mello “dedicated his life to helping people in danger and in difficulty”:

“He took on this new mission wanting really to do something else, wanting to continue his work at the human rights commission. But he did it because he was a soldier -- a soldier in the cause of peace.”

A diplomat from Brazil, Sergio Vieira de Mello was best known for his distinguished service as the U-N’s transitional administrator in East Timor. In 1999, he took control of the southeast Asian half-island that had been torn by two-dozen years of war with Indonesia and guided it to independence in May 2002. Earlier, Mr. Vieira de Mello had served under difficult conditions in such places as Bangladesh, Cyprus, Mozambique, Peru, Lebanon, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and the Congo, and Kosovo. Clearly, the people of Brazil -- and the world -- have lost, in the words of President Bush, “one of their finest public servants.”

By attempting to spread chaos and fear, said Mr. Bush, “terrorists are testing our will. Across the world, they are finding that our will cannot be shaken. . . . We will continue this war on terror until the killers are brought to justice. And we will prevail.”

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