UN envoy in Iraq escapes bombing unharmed

October 19, 2010 20:25


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BAGHDAD — The chief UN envoy to Iraq narrowly escaped unharmed in a bombing that hit his convoy Tuesday after a meeting with the nation's top cleric about ways on how to unsnarl Iraq's stalemated government.

Officials have long worried that the political impasse that has gripped Iraq for more than seven months may lead to violence, and the attack on UN Special Representative Ad Melkert underscored those fears.

The UN has had a scaled-back presence in Iraq after a 2003 bombing of its Baghdad headquarters killed then-envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 employees. But its staff have stubbornly persisted in helping Iraq untangle political crises and other hot-button issues as an international force that remains committed to the country as the US military begins to leave.

UN spokeswoman Randa Jamal said Melkert had finished meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and was leaving the holy Shiite city of Najaf when his convoy hit a roadside bomb. But the delegation was not hurt, Jamal said, and Melkert was safely back in Baghdad by Tuesday evening.

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