U.N. Secretary General not injured after rocket hits only 50 meters far from him

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was not injured when a rocket landed near the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's. The two officials were speaking to reporters at a news conference when the accident occurred.

Two Iraqi security guards on the grounds outside the building were slightly wounded, security officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

An Associate Press reporter ran outside and saw a crater one-meter (yard) in diameter about 50 meters (yards) from the building where the news conference was in progress. Two cars were damaged.

Al-Maliki security officials said it was a rocket attack. U.S. helicopters were quickly in the air headed in the direction from which the rocket was fired.

Small chips of debris floated down from the ceiling above the U.N. chief after the big explosion rattled the building in the Green Zone. He looked frightened, casting his eyes right and left as he rose after ducking behind the podium where he was standing and answering questions next to the prime minister. A few minutes later, a worriedBan turned to one of his aides and asked: "Is it Ok?"

Al-Maliki said "nothing's wrong" as one of his security men started to grab the prime minister. The rocket landed as one of Ban's replies was being translated into Arabic.

Al-Maliki then proceeded to answer a question and while that response was being translated, he turned to Ban and asked: "That's enough?" Ban replied: "Yes."

The sound of the weapon being fired - which sounded like a rocket launch - could be heard not far from The Associated Press office, which is across the Tigris River to the east of the Green Zone, which also houses the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government offices.

Al-Maliki had just finished telling reporters that Ban's visit was a sign that Iraq was on the road to stability.

"We consider it (visit) a positive message to world in which you (Ban) confirm that Baghdad has returned to playing host to important world figures because it has made huge strides on the road toward stability," al-Maliki said in his opening remarks.

Ban and al-Maliki were speaking to reporters after meeting for about one hour in the heavily fortified Green Zone. Ban was to leave Baghdad later Thursday after the first visit by the top U.N. official in nearly a year and a half. His predecessor, Kofi Annan, was in the Iraqi capital in November 2005.

Annan pulled all U.N. international staff out of Iraq in October 2003, after two bombings at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and a spate of attacks on humanitarian workers. The first bombing, on Aug. 19, 2003, killed the top U.N. envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 others, reports AP.

In August 2004, the secretary-general allowed a small U.N. contingent to return to Baghdad and imposed a ceiling of 35 international staffers. The ceiling has steadily increased since then, but the total number has remained relatively low because of the security situation.

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