One year ago this month, terrorists bombed the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. The attack killed twenty-two people, including the U-N’s top envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Some one-hundred other people, including both Iraqis and U-N staff, were wounded.
At a memorial service to remember the victims of the attack, U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan said the U-N will not be deterred in its effort to help rebuild Iraq:
"Our belief in the cause of peace is undiminished, our sense of mission is intact, and our work goes on."
The attack prompted the United Nations to withdraw its staff from Iraq. But the U-N is now returning to help with Iraq’s transition to democracy.
The new U-N special envoy to Iraq is Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan. He says that while the U-N remains concerned about the security situation, he believes the people of Iraq want to make the political transition a success:
"They do believe the U-N has a vital role to play and a vital role of assistance, of facilitation to play in bringing about a successful political transition, in which the entire Iraqi people are stakeholders."
A great deal has changed in Iraq since the U-N headquarters bombing. Iraq’s infrastructure is being repaired. A new interim Iraqi government came into being on June 28th of this year. More than one-thousand Iraqis gathered from all over the country this month to take part in a national conference and to debate, peacefully, solutions to the challenges facing the nation. The U-N and an independent Iraqi election commission have begun work on elections for a transitional national assembly to be held in January 2005.
But the terrorist threat in Iraq remains. President George W. Bush says, “The Iraqi people are making steady progress toward a free society.” The interim Iraqi government and the U.S.-led coalition, he said, “will not let thugs and killers stand in the way of democracy in Iraq.”