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Head of U.N. Envoy to Iraq Named

Head of U.N. Envoy to Iraq Named

Posted - May 23, 2003 at 4:15 p.m.



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UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- U.N. human rights chief Sergio Vieira de Mello has been chosen as the United Nations' special representative to Iraq, diplomats said Friday.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a letter informing the Security Council of his choice late Friday, said Mansoor Suhail, spokesman for Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram, the current council president.

The appointment will be four months long, diplomats said, because of the importance Annan places on Vieira de Mello's post as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Vieira de Mello -- known for his work as U.N. troubleshooter in hotspots such as Bangladesh, Lebanon and East Timor -- was the top choice of the United States, which lobbied quietly for his selection.

He gained widespread praise for overseeing East Timor's three-year transition to independence after Indonesia withdrew in 1999.

In September, he became chief of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, based in Geneva, following the departure of former Irish president, Mary Robinson, whose positions sometimes angered the United States and other countries.

From the beginning, Vieira de Mello made it clear he would be less confrontational.

"Judge me on the basis of results, and not on style," he said shortly after taking office in Geneva. "My job will require speaking out to turn the world's attention to abuses. But it also requires tact and political acumen."

U.S. support could prove vital for the 54-year-old French-educated Brazilian as the United Nations tries to carve out a role in shaping a new government for Iraq.

Under a council resolution on Iraq adopted Thursday, Vieira de Mello will coordinate U.N. humanitarian and reconstruction efforts and work with the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi people to help build a democratic government in Iraq.

France, Russia and Germany wanted the United Nations to take the lead in forming the new government and managed to win a somewhat stronger role than earlier U.S. drafts called for.

The U.N. envoy will have "independent responsibilities" while working with the United States, Britain and the Iraqi officials in reconstruction and setting up a new administration.

But the final resolution preserves U.S. and British dominance in Iraqi affairs.

"He is an excellent choice for the job," said Joanna Weschler, U.N. representative for Human Rights Watch.

"We trust that he has very keen understanding that human rights will be key to the Iraq operation, and that he will make sure that they are given their due prominence."

Vieira de Mello has spent much of his career at the United Nations working for its refugee agency. He joined the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in 1969, serving in Bangladesh in 1971 then in Mozambique and Peru.

He became senior political adviser to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon between 1981 and 1983, during the period when Israel invaded.

He was a special U.N. envoy in Kosovo following the U.S.-led bombing raids that broke Serbian control of the province in 1999.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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