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CNN BREAKING NEWS

United Nations Reaction to Bombing of Baghdad Headquarters

Aired August 19, 2003 - 13:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Soon after the blast, the United Nations Security Council went into an emergency session. Just last week that council voted to expand the U.N. Mission to Iraq.
CNN's Michael Okwu is at the U.N. to give us the latest from there.

Hello -- Michael.

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Miles.

We understand now that there are 17 U.N. personnel who have been killed. Eight of those U.N. personnel are from the New York office.

There are tears in the hallways of the United Nations. It seems that everybody here knew somebody who worked in that building. Of course, 300 people worked in that office, U.N. personnel. We do not know how many were in the office at the time of the explosion.

Now, Secretary-General Kofi Annan is cutting back on his northern European vacation, heading back to New York City headquarters tomorrow. We understand that he has spoken to the president, the secretary of state, as well as Ambassador Bremer.

Among the injured, of course, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. special representative to Iraq, a 55-year-old veteran of the United Nations, also appointed as the high commissioner for human rights -- Mr. de Mello, a highly respected individual.

Last July, he spoke to the Security Council, very interesting and ironic to hear what he had to say about U.N. presence, as well as security in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGIO VIEIRA DE MELLO, U.N. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TO IRAQ: The United Nations' presence in Iraq remains vulnerable to any who would seek to target our organization, as recent events in Mosul described in the secretary-general's report illustrate. Our security continues to rely significantly on the reputation of the United Nations, our ability to demonstrate meaningfully that we are in Iraq to assist its people and our independence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OKWU: I don't think it's overstating it to say that diplomats here at the United Nations are taking this a little bit personally. All along, they have been pushing for a central role for the United Nations, and they say some of the efforts -- or all of the efforts that they're involved in are really centered around bettering the lives of the Iraqi people.

A very strong statement coming from the Security Council earlier this morning, and they appear to have that much more resolve to stay in the country. There have been a lot of questions just from this morning about where the United Nations will go with this. They appear to be ready to focus and to stay there and to make things better -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Michael, is there a sense that Mr. de Mello was a specific target of this attack? Do you have any idea of that from where you sit?

OKWU: Absolutely not. That's pure speculation at this point. Everybody is just still, I think, a little shell-shocked that the United Nations was targeted to begin with.

The most recent targeting we had at the United Nations was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a less sophisticated hit than this one. And that had to do with the fact that there were refugees and tribal factions fighting each other, and that some of those tribal factions were seeking refuge at the U.N. headquarters there.

This one seems to be much more of a big question mark. Why would you target a facility of people who are essentially trying to help your country -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Michael Okwu in New York at the United Nations, thank you.

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