Sudan orders U.N. envoy to leave country

October 23, 2006|By Los Angeles Times

NAIROBI, Kenya -- The Sudanese government ordered the top United Nations envoy out of the country yesterday, the most recent sign of deteriorating relations between Khartoum and the world body over how to stop violence in Darfur.

Jan Pronk, a former Dutch government minister who has been serving as U.N. special representative in Sudan since 2004, was given 72 hours to leave the country after Sudanese officials accused him of making inappropriate comments on his personal blog.

The expulsion marked another diplomatic nose-thumbing by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his administration, which has resisted international pressure in recent months to accept U.N. peacekeepers in western Sudan.

Violence has risen significantly in recent weeks in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in three years of fighting. The Sudanese government also has been accused of unleashing bands of so-called janjaweed militias to kill civilians in a campaign that U.S. officials call genocide.

Sudan's government-controlled news agency characterized Pronk's recent activities and comments as "incompatible with his mission."

In Geneva, U.N. spokeswoman Marie Heuze noted that Pronk's comments were on his private blog and reflect "only his personal views."

In Britain, Lord Triesman, the Foreign Office minister for African issues, condemned the expulsion, saying: "This step is counterproductive and will contribute nothing to solving the problems of Sudan."

Pronk has pressed Khartoum to accept about 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to replace 7,000 African Union troops now patrolling in Darfur. Sudan has rejected any involvement by U.N. peacekeepers, warning that their deployment would be viewed as an act of war.

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