U.N. confirms death of Haiti mission chief Annabi

UNITED NATIONS Sat Jan 16, 2010 8:05pm EST

U.N. envoy to Haiti Hedi Annabi speaks to the media after his meeting with Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim in Brasilia January 21, 2008. REUTERS/Jamil Bittar

U.N. envoy to Haiti Hedi Annabi speaks to the media after his meeting with Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim in Brasilia January 21, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jamil Bittar

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. mission chief in Haiti, Hedi Annabi, died in Tuesday's earthquake that devastated the country's capital, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Saturday.

Annabi, a Tunisian, was believed to be 65.

In a statement, Ban also confirmed the death of Annabi's deputy, Brazilian Luiz Carlos da Costa, and of the acting U.N. police commissioner in Haiti, Doug Coates of Canada.

Ban gave no details of how the bodies had been found, but the world body said earlier this week that Annabi and his aides were under the rubble of the Hotel Christopher, the U.N. headquarters in Port-au-Prince, and could be alive or dead.

Haitian President Rene Preval said on Wednesday that Annabi had died, but the United Nations said at the time it could not confirm that.

Annabi is the first U.N. mission chief to die in the line of duty since Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil was killed along with 14 other U.N. staff when a truck bomb exploded outside the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad in 2003.

Ban described Annabi as "the gold standard of service against which all who had the privilege to work with him were measured." He hailed the Tunisian's "unparalleled work ethic -- he was the first in and the last out every day for his entire career."

After working in the Tunisian foreign service, Annabi joined the United Nations in 1981. For nearly a decade, he worked on a political settlement in Cambodia before joining the U.N. peacekeeping department where he rose to be an assistant secretary-general. He had held the Haiti job since 2007.

Ban said of Annabi, da Costa and Coates that "in every sense of the word, they gave their lives for peace."

By Friday, the U.N. death toll in Haiti had stood at 37. The deaths announced by Ban raise that to at least 40, but U.N. officials expect it ultimately to rise well over 100.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that under the leadership of Annabi and his team, the U.N. mission in Haiti "helped the country turn a corner after the suffering it endured in recent years."

"This is an effort now set back by this unimaginable catastrophe," she said.

(Reporting by Patrick Worsnip; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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