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IN THE NEWS — Sergio Vieira de Mello - 2003-08-23

Broadcast: August 23, 2003

This is In the News, in VOA Special English.

On Tuesday, a suicide bomber drove a truck filled with explosives into the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq. More than twenty people were killed and almost one-hundred others were wounded.

The U-N’s top diplomat in Iraq was among those killed. Sergio Vieira de Mello was from Brazil. He was fifty-five years old. Mister Vieira de Mello was the U-N High Commissioner for Human Rights. He had been serving in Baghdad temporarily. U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan had chosen him as his special representative to Iraq.

Sergio Viera de Mello had the difficult job of organizing U-N efforts to rebuild civilian rule and extend humanitarian relief in Iraq. When he arrived in Iraq, he said his main goal was to protect the interests of the Iraqi people during the occupation led by the United States. He planned to leave Iraq next week and return to his job in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Brazilian diplomat served with the U-N for more than thirty years. He was often sent to dangerous areas of the world. He led U-N efforts to rebuild troubled areas, including Kosovo and East Timor.

Sergio Vieira de Mello was born in Rio de Janeiro in nineteen-forty-eight. He studied in Brazil and France. He received two doctorate degrees from the University of Paris. A native speaker of Portuguese, he also spoke English, French and Spanish.

He joined the office of the U-N High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva in nineteen-sixty-nine. In the early nineteen-seventies, he served in Bangladesh and Cyprus. Then he was appointed the U-N-H-C-R representative in Mozambique. He served during the civil war that followed the country's independence from Portugal in nineteen-seventy-five.

From nineteen-eighty-one to eighty-three, he was the top political adviser to the U-N peacekeepers in Lebanon. Later, after the mass killings in Rwanda, Mister Vieira de Mello served as the U-N humanitarian official there. He became the U-N’s top official in Kosovo in nineteen-ninety-nine. He served after United States bombing raids ended Serbian control in the province.

Then he led U-N operations in East Timor. He helped rebuild the former Indonesian territory after violence followed its vote for independence. He led the U-N’s temporary administration that prepared East Timor for full independence last year.

Diplomats from around the world mourned Sergio Vieira de Mello’s death. Kofi Annan said Mister Vieira de Mello served humanity, helped ease suffering and helped people rebuild their war-torn societies. People who knew the Brazilian diplomat said his leadership ability and feelings for people made him truly effective. Many U-N experts believed Mister Vieira de Mello would have one day become secretary general of the United Nations.

In the News, from VOA Special English, was written by Shelley Gollust.