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Top official killed in Haiti quake was respected U.N. veteran

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Hedi Annabi, the civilian head of the U.N. mission to Haiti who was killed in a devastating quake in the Caribbean country, was a quiet but highly-respected veteran troubleshooter.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon confirmed Saturday the death of Annabi, his mission chief in Haiti, and his Brazilian deputy in the quake that flattened the U.N. mission's main headquarters.

“I am deeply saddened to confirm the tragic death of my special representative to Haiti, Hedi Annabi,” Ban said in a statement.

The respected Tunisian official served as deputy head of U.N. peacekeeping operations from 1997 to 2007.

Ban hailed Annabi as “a true citizen of the world.

“The United Nations was his life and he ranked amongst its most dedicated and committed sons. He was passionate about its mission and its people,” the secretary general said.

Ban also described his dead deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa of Brazil, as “for many, many years a legend of U.N. peacekeeping operations.”

U.N. officials said the pair were holding talks with a visiting Chinese police delegation in the MINUSTAH headquarters, a five-story concrete building known as the Christopher Hotel, when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday.

Annabi was well liked by U.N. diplomats for his dedication and quiet demeanor.

“Hedi Annabi has earned a huge amount of respect and of trust,” Farhan Haq, a U.N. spokesman, told AFP.

Annabi, born in 1944, assumed his Haiti post in September 2007, taking over from Edmond Mulet of Guatemala.

A Tunisian former career diplomat, Annabi joined the United Nations in 1981 and served in a series of senior posts in the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations from 1993.

The announcement brought to 40 the number of U.N. personnel confirmed dead in Tuesday's quake, which killed at least 50,000 people, according to Haitian authorities.

Close to 330 people among the 12,000 U.N. staffers serving in Haiti are still unaccounted for, according to U.N. officials.

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