UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Tuesday called the loss of the U.N. chief in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, "a bitter blow."
Annan, who has cut short his vacation, and was returning from Europe to U.N headquarters in New York, issued a statement after Vieira de Mello's death was announced.
"The loss of Sergio Vieira de Mello is a bitter blow for the United Nations, and for me personally," said Annan, adding the loss of any colleague was "hard to bear."
"I can think of no one we could less afford to spare, or who would be more acutely missed throughout the U.N. system, than Sergio," said the secretary-general.
"Throughout his career he has been an outstanding servant of humanity, dedicated to relieving the suffering of his fellow men and women, helping them to resolve their conflicts and rebuild their war-torn societies," he said, adding that in his wide-ranging posts Vieira de Mello did it "not by force but by diplomacy and persuasion."