updated 12/9/2003 5:43:09 PM ET 2003-12-09T22:43:09

Secretary-General Kofi Annan plans to name a veteran U.N. humanitarian relief official from New Zealand as his interim envoy to Iraq, diplomats said Tuesday.

Ross Mountain, who has traveled to war zones in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, will temporarily take over the duties of Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in the Aug. 19 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

Mountain is the U.N. assistant emergency relief coordinator and director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva.

Annan said at a meeting last week of a 16-member advisory group on Iraq that he planned to name an interim envoy to Iraq shortly, as well as a new special representative to Iraq early next year to replace Vieira de Mello.

Diplomats said on condition of anonymity that Annan had chosen Mountain to be the interim envoy. When a new special representative is chosen, Mountain will become the deputy.

U.N. report on Iraq imminent
The United Nations withdrew its international staff from Iraq after the Aug. 19 bombing, which killed 22 people, and a Sept. 22 attack that killed an Iraqi policeman. Future U.N. operations in Iraq are to be outlined in a report that Annan is expected to release Wednesday.

Last month, Annan said the United Nations could establish a regional office in Jordan or Cyprus to focus on activities in Iraq.

He said that Baghdad was still too insecure for U.N. staff to return but that the world body was examining how it might help the Iraqi Governing Council from outside the country, with workers making regular visits into Iraq.

Jalal Talabani sent a letter to Annan on Nov. 10 on behalf of the Iraqi Governing Council saying it was essential to have the "active participation of the United Nations in the political process and the development of Iraq."

In his reply, Annan said he would study the timetable and the role the council would like the United Nations to play.

A letter from Talabani to the Security Council on Nov. 24 outlined a timetable for the handover of power to a provisional government in June and general elections by the end of 2005.

The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the Iraqi response next Tuesday.

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