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Words in the News
 
Wednesday 20 August 2003
 
Iraq UN explosion
 
US soldiers stand guard at the site of the UN bombing in Baghdad Tuesday's explosion at the United Nations headquarters in Iraq is a personal tragedy for the families of those killed or hurt. But there will also be diplomatic results. The UN has an uncertain role in Iraq - the Security Council did not accept the United States-led attack on the country and yet, after that, UN officials went to work there. This report from Mark Doyle:
 
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The attack on the United Nations headquarters in Iraq leaves the UN more exposed than ever.

The physical security of United Nations personnel may be uppermost in the minds of UN Secretary General Koffi Annan and other officials as they gather for crisis talks in New York over the next day or two. But the organisation is exposed politically as well.

Supporters of the UN - such as the former UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson - say the attack should be a wake-up call to redouble efforts to get a wider UN mandate to steer Iraq back to sovereignty.

But - quite aside from whether the US-led occupying powers would allow such a strong UN mandate to be developed - the attack is bound to discourage potential troop-contributing countries from taking part in any international force.

The UN has always been at pains to say that its role in occupied Iraq is distinct from that of the US-led forces, and many ordinary Iraqis appreciated that the primary UN role was humanitarian.

But the UN Security Council recently passed a resolution welcoming the establishment of the Iraqi Governing Council, a council appointed under United States supervision. That Security Council resolution was controversial for opponents of the US-led occupation. Its adoption was an example of the tightrope the UN has to walk between the reality of American power and the demand of some of its other member states for a bigger say in world affairs.
 
 
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exposed
 
in a dangerous situation
 
physical security
 
bodily safety, safety of people
 
uppermost in the minds of
 
most important thing they are thinking of at the moment
 
mandate
 
instruction or authority to do something
 
sovereignty
 
power to govern itself
 
potential troop-contributing countries
 
countries which might provide soldiers in the future
 
humanitarian
 
helping people, trying to avoid suffering
 
passed a resolution
 
made an official decision by voting at a meeting
 
controversial
 
causing disagreement, discussion or argument
 
tightrope
 
piece of rope stretched between two poles on which acrobats balance and perform tricks; here, gives the idea of being in a difficult position
 
 
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