Mourners from the diplomatic community as well as regular citizens filed through the Brazilian Embassy for five days to sign a book of condolences placed on a wooden table facing three majestic, bloomless cherry trees in the garden.
They left moving tributes to Brazil's Sergio Vieira de Mello, 55, the U.N. special representative in Iraq who was killed on Aug. 19 in a truck bombing outside U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.
"You deserved much better," wrote Montshioa Simon Prince Choabi, a third secretary from the embassy of South Africa, across the way on Massachusetts Avenue. Vieira de Mello was described as a "model citizen of the world" and "an outstanding international statesman" by some of those who signed the book. People noted how much he was admired for helping East Timor achieve independence and for working selflessly to aid victims around the globe. "Sergio was a true friend of those in need . . . he helped us a lot to overcome [the] Chernobyl disaster. We will never forget," a Ukrainian diplomat wrote of the 1986 nuclear calamity there.
"In life he gave everything to deliver countless millions from unspeakable pain of persecution and brutality, nursed their broken spirits and gave them confidence to believe there will be a better tomorrow. In death, he will continue to inspire all who answer the call to serve humanity," wrote the Malaysian ambassador, Dato Sheikh Abdul Khalid Ghazzali.
The first to sign the book last week was a former colleague.
"I knew Sergio -- met him in Lebanon some 20 years ago -- he was among the best of us U.N. international servants. Like him, I served the U.N. for 34 years and yesterday, I mourned and cried," wrote Madia Saad, describing the period during the early 1980s when Vieira de Mello served as adviser to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.
The last to sign the book by midday Tuesday was Ajay Swarup, political minister at the Indian Embassy. He said that the death, "a result of a dastardly terrorist bombing, has touched a raw nerve in our hearts, India being the victim of terrorism." On Monday, at least 50 people were killed and more than 150 wounded in Bombay when two car bombs ripped through a busy jewelry market and a popular waterfront tourist spot. There was speculation that the bombings were linked to a Hindu-Muslim disagreement over a contested religious site in India, and possibly precipitated by last week's bombings in Baghdad and Jerusalem.
The Brazilian ambassador, Ruben Barbosa, said the book of condolences will be sent to Brazil's Foreign Ministry and then passed on to Vieira de Mello's family.
Barbosa said his embassy was deluged with letters and e-mails from all over the United States. "The reaction of people and the repercussion in the media here and in Brazil, where Vieira de Mello is well respected and admired in the Foreign Ministry, was still amazing," he said. He confirmed there had been unofficial talk that the late diplomat was in the running to be the next U.N. secretary general.
Vieira de Mello had given a final interview to the Brazilian newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo on Aug. 17. In the telephone interview, excerpts of which were published the day he died, Vieira de Mello said that he did not think U.N. officials in Baghdad faced a security threat.
"The U.N. is still very respected by the local population," Vieira de Mello said, according to the newspaper. "The Iraqis, contrary to what they might feel about the occupation forces, look at the U.N. as an independent, friendly organization."
He also said that the United States needed to work harder to deal with safety issues in Iraq. "The coalition forces must understand that the job of guaranteeing security cannot be imposed," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "That should be the job of the Iraqis."
The papal nuncio, Gabriele Montalvo, came to pay his respects Tuesday. In the corner of the glassed-in entrance nearby stood a steel sculpture by a Brazilian artist, Mario Cravo Neto, of a bird with arched wings, its head held high, but gliding downward.
Headed Home to Cyprus
The Cypriot ambassador, Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, received well-wishers Monday before she leaves her post this Friday after five years in Washington, a stint she described as the "highlight of my career." She will become director of her Foreign Ministry department, and will deal with Cypriot reunification. Kozakou-Marcoullis expects a "challenging period" through next May, when Cyprus will officially become part of the European Union, along with nine other new members.
Rauf Denktash, the leader of the Turkish sector of the island, opposes reunification, but Kozakou-Marcoullis said she hoped that would change. "For the first time, Turkish Cypriots have indicated they want to be part of this," she said. She also said Turkish Cypriots have staged demonstrations that favored reunification with the Greek sector.
Turkish Cypriots have established two political parties ahead of scheduled parliamentary elections in December. One is the Peace and Solution Party and the other is the Solution and Accession Party, she said.
"They are opposed to the policies of Denktash," she said, "and EU membership is at our doorstep. Turkish Cypriots are frustrated because they want to get in as well."
Kozakou-Marcoullis said she felt gratified by her Washington experience. There was heightened interest in Cyprus and its problems, she said, as she recalled meeting with journalists and scholars, as well as with President Bush when he was still governor of Texas.