US President Barack Obama honours UN staff who have fallen in action

US President Barack Obama lays wreath in honour of victims of the August 2003 attack on the UN office in Iraq

23 September 2009 – United States President Barack Obama paid personal tribute today to the many United Nations personnel who have been killed worldwide in the line of duty since the Organization began operations in 1945.

Mr. Obama laid a wreath of blue hydrangeas in front of a memorial plaque at the UN Headquarters complex in New York for the 22 staff members who were killed on 19 August 2003 when a terrorist bomb exploded at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, then the site of the world body’s headquarters in Iraq.

Accompanied by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and US Ambassador Susan Rice, Mr. Obama – who this week is visiting UN Headquarters for the first time as US President – observed a moment’s silence and then paid his respects at other staff memorials in the complex.

They included plaques commemorating the former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, who died in a plane crash in 1961; Sweden’s Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator on Palestine, who was killed in 1948; members of armed forces of UN Member States who died during the Korean War; and military observers and Secretariat staff members who died while serving with UN observation, mediation or conciliation missions.

Mr. Obama described the memorials today as “a fitting tribute” to those who have died in the service of peace, according to a UN official who accompanied the US President.

Last year the UN General Assembly designated 19 August each year as World Humanitarian Day to give special recognition to all UN and associated humanitarian personnel who serve around the globe or who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

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