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De Mello successor named, UN resume work

United Nations/Baghdad, Aug. 23 (Reuters): UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has named Ramiro Lopes da Silva, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, to be his interim special representative to Iraq, diplomats said yesterday.

Lopes da Silva, who is Portuguese, succeeds Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in Tuesday’s suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad.

“I wish to inform you that I have, on an interim basis, appointed Ramiro Lopes da Silva as my acting special representative,” Annan said in a letter to the UN Security Council, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

Lopes da Silva, 54, was injured in Tuesday’s bombing but not seriously.

He has been working for the UN since 1985, specialising in humanitarian operations.

Before joining the world body’s Iraq programme in May 2002, he worked for the World Food Programme, headquartered in Rome. He has also worked on humanitarian emergencies in Angola and Afghanistan.

UN staff resumed work in Baghdad today in tents and shipping containers set up beside the wreckage of their bombed headquarters.

Dozens of UN workers who survived Tuesday’s truck bomb attack which killed 24 people were joined by colleagues flown into Iraq in recent days to help re-establish the mission.

“We’ve come back to help restart operations to the best of our ability,” said Kevin Kennedy of the UN’s office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA), who arrived from New York yesterday .

“It’s hard to believe the level of destruction. It has to be seen to be believed.”

Those returning to Baghdad embraced colleagues who survived the attack, some with dressings covering wounds on their faces and arms.

Different UN agencies were assigned spaces in rows of white tents, pre-fabricated offices and containers to set up computers and files retrieved from the devastated building.

“It’s difficult because a lot of our records have been lost,” said OCHA’s David McLachlan-Karr. “We’re trying to recover hard drives and fix laptops to see what we have.”

Air-conditioners were hooked up in some tents and makeshift offices, others were left to the mercy of the blazing heat.

Calum Gardner, deputy country director for the World Food Programme, stared in shock at a photograph of his former office, a shard of glass piercing the back of the chair from which he was thrown by the the explosion.

A few metres away, using bulldozers and heavy lifting equipment, US soldiers sifted through the rubble of the blast.

At a ceremony yesterday before Vieira de Mello’s body was flown out of Baghdad, a colleague said one of his dying wishes was that the UN should continue to operate in Iraq.

Expatriate staff were given the option to leave, but about half have stayed under the new leadership of Ramiro Lopes da Silva.

His hand bandaged and a plaster covering a cut on his forehead, Lopes da Silva began work in one of the tents.

The UN’s security coordinator Tun Myat was due to arrive in Baghdad to assess the safety of UN staff and activities.

The New York Times reported yesterday that investigators were focusing on the possibility that Iraqi security guards at the UN compound had assisted the bombers.

3 British soldiers killed

Three British soldiers were killed and one was seriously wounded today when gunmen in a pickup truck opened fire on a military convoy in Iraq, the British military said.

The attack in Basra was the most deadly on British soldiers since June, when six soldiers were killed in the town of Majjar.

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