Voicing shock and distress, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today the world body was "assessing the situation" following the latest attack on UN premises in Baghdad and stressed the need for a secure environment to be able to operate.
"We will go forward, but of course if it continues to deteriorate then our operations will be handicapped considerably," Mr. Annan said when asked by journalists about the effect of the attack, in which a suicide car bomber blew himself up, killing an Iraqi security guard and wounding 19 others just over a month after a massive blast killed 22 people, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. After that attack, on 19 August, the UN sharply reduced the number of its international personnel in Baghdad.
Asked on arrival at UN Headquarters in New York whether the UN would be reconsidering its operations in Iraq, Mr. Annan replied: "We are assessing the situation. There is a meeting taking place right now, reviewing the situation in light of what has happened, and we will decide as we move forward what our posture should be."
As for what it would take from a security perspective for the UN to send back in the staff it had withdrawn, he said: "I think there are two issues: obviously there are discussions about a second resolution which may affect the UN mandate and the role of the UN, and we would obviously need to know what that new role will be for us to determine how we organize ourselves to tackle that.
"And of course there is the security issue. We need a secure environment to be able to operate, and we have been assessing the situation on a daily basis to determine if there are improvements in the situation," he added.
A statement issued later Monday by Mr. Annan's spokesman said: "The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms today's suicide bombing in the car park of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad."
Voicing sadness at the casualties, which included injured Iraqi UN staff as well as a number of Iraqi police, the statement added: "The Secretary-General is dismayed that the United Nations in Iraq has once again been the target of an act of terror. He remains greatly concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Iraq."
Mr. Annan also commended the Iraqi police, “whose prompt action averted another major disaster,” the statement said.
According to a UN spokesman, the incident occurred shortly after 8 a.m. local time in Baghdad. A vehicle was stopped at an Iraqi police checkpoint located at the entrance of the parking lot used by UN national staff who work in the Canal Hotel compound.
As the car was being inspected, the lone occupant detonated explosives, killing himself and an Iraqi police officer. There was no damage to the Canal Hotel as the explosion took place about 300 metres from the working areas of the UN offices.