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UN's Explosion in Iraq Remembered as Ban Pitches Expansion, Threat Assessment Unaddressed

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, August 16 -- Four years after a truck bomb attack destroyed the UN's Baghdad headquarters and killed 22 staff members, new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is proposing sending more UN staff to Iraq. Friday at the UN the Staff Union has organized a commemoration of the August 19, 2004 truck bombing, which Mr. Ban will attend, and a moment of silence.

            Breaking their silence, the families of several of the victims and other targeted survivors are increasingly dissatisfied with the UN's actions before and after the bombing. Some say the UN has never sufficiently addressed the story of a "threat assessment" prepared, it's said, by Bruno Henn and Leo Powell, earlier in 2004, before the bombing.

    While hindsight is 20/20, not only it is said that the report was not acted on, there has also been unclarity inside, including a report that a staff member, Andrew Cameron, had an electronic copy of the report, which has yet to be made public.

            If the UN was not shielded in immunity -- some say, impunity -- there would be litigation, in which safety steps and improvements could be known, and implemented in the future.

Second anniversary, 2005

            It is in this context that, even beyond the recent Staff Council vote urging Ban not to keep or increase UN staff in Iraq until he can "certify" their safety, rank and file staff are questioning Ban's expansion plans. Ban is reportedly proposing a $130 million new UN Baghdad headquarters, an expenditure and process already criticized by the UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.

    Additionally, a staff member in Iraq says it is highly unlikely that any construction company would work on such a building, even at that price, given the lack of security in Baghdad. "Dream on," one staff member said, referring to Ban's plan, which the staff member sees as little more than an attempt to try to please the United States.

            Thursday afternoon there was talk that the Under-Secretary General of security, David Veness, would brief the press on Friday. Others said that he is just back from another secretive mission, and that he must talk with the families of victims first. We'll see -- another story will follow.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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