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World's leaders unite after Baghdad blast
( 2003-08-20 11:25) (Agencies)

Putting aside differences over the Iraq war, world leaders united Tuesday in their condemnation of the suicide attack on a U.N. compound in Baghdad a bombing that killed and wounded U.N. workers and Iraqi civilians.

"This is a criminal attack, clearly carried out by forces that do not want the rebuilding of Iraq to take place in peace and freedom," said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, which joined Russia and France in opposing the invasion of Iraq.

France pledged its full support for the United Nations in Iraq and vigorously condemned the attack in Baghdad.

"Acts as odious as this can only prompt indignation and unreserved condemnation," French President Jacques Chirac said in a message to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The victims came from around the world including the United States, the Philippines, Egypt, Britain and Canada. Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil, the chief U.N. official in Iraq was among those killed.

President Bush vowed: "The civilized world will not be intimidated."

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the bombing "just shows there are some people on earth who are so wicked and evil that nothing can be done but to confront them." Australia sent troops to help oust President Saddam Hussein.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Vieira de Mello was a "victim of the insanity of terrorism," and he decreed three days of official mourning for a man who was the country's most prominent international diplomat in decades.

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair said "We will not allow terrorists to weaken our resolve in bringing about a better Iraq."

Mexico's President Vicente Fox, whose nation has a seat on the U.N. Security Council and opposed the Iraq war, said the attack "clearly demonstrates that terrorism continues to constitute a threat for all member countries of the United Nations."

Russia, an advocate of a wider international role in Iraq, called the attack a "barbaric act" that was "aimed at undermining the already difficult process of postwar stabilization in Iraq.

China's Foreign Ministry said the government supports the U.N. effort in the reconstruction and called for the agency's authorities to safeguard the security of its staff. "China condemns the violent attack," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told the official Xinhua News Agency.

Pope John Paul II sent his condolences to the United Nations and relatives of the victims and called for all those engaged in violence to "abandon the ways of hatred." In a letter to Annan, John Paul offered prayers for the victims and asked for God to "comfort those who mourn at this time of tragic loss."

The European Union foreign and security affairs chief, Javier Solana, said the bombing was a "despicable act ... against people who are working for Iraq's future and an attack against the international community's determination to reconstruct Iraq."

Syria and Lebanon, among the Arab countries that had fiercely opposed the U.S. invasion, expressed concern about the consequences of an attack on the United Nations, seen by many Arabs as a counterweight to U.S. power in the world.

"This criminal ... act should not influence the U.N.'s role in helping the Iraqi people restore their freedom and independence," a Syrian Foreign Ministry official told the Syrian news agency.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud feared such attacks "would undermine the effective role that could be played by the U.N. to restore stability and change the present status in Iraq."

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, a sharp critic of the U.S. role in Iraq, said organization "expresses its solidarity with the United Nations and demands that the international community support the U.N. mission in Baghdad and ensure its protection."

Adnan Pachachi, a member of Iraq's Governing Council presidency, said he feared that Vieira de Mello's vision for Iraqi self-determination was now at risk from elements who "don't want a stable and secure Iraq."

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the chairman of Iraq's Governing Council, blamed the attack on "evil-minded elements that target innocent Iraqis and the positive role of the U.N. ... in our country."

Many of those expressing anger, sadness and resolve were from agencies with a similar global mission as the United Nations.

"No political cause can ever justify intentional attacks on civilians," Joanna Weschler, the U.N. representative for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "What happened today in Baghdad violates the most fundamental principles of humanitarian law."

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said: "The thoughts of everyone at Amnesty International are with the United Nations' staff, their families and all those affected."

The International Committee of the Red Cross was "appalled by the brutal and devastating attack."

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