Wed, Oct 25, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Annan backing his Sudan envoy following exit order

DAFUR DILEMMA Jan Pronk left Khartoum for New York on Monday, but a UN spokesman said that he had been recalled, not withdrawn because of Sudanese complaints


UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan still has full confidence in his top envoy in Sudan who was ordered to leave the country after accusing the army of violating UN resolutions by mobilizing Arab militias in Darfur province following heavy losses in recent fighting with rebels, the UN spokesman said.

Jan Pronk, who has been Annan's special representative in Sudan for over two years, was leaving Khartoum, but UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Monday stressed that he was being recalled for consultations at Annan's request -- and not departing to comply with the government's order.

Pronk flew out of Khartoum on Monday night and was expected to arrive in New York late today for meetings with Annan and other senior UN officials, UN deputy spokesperson Marie Okabe said.

Meanwhile, Annan spoke to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Monday morning, and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hedi Annabi met Sudan's UN ambassador Monday afternoon to discuss the government's letter to the secretary-general requesting Pronk's withdrawal, she said.

"What needs to be clearly stated is that he continues to be the special representative of the secretary-general and serving with the full support of the secretary-general in that capacity," Dujarric said.

"We are recalling him back for consultations. As far as we are concerned, his status has not changed," Dujarric said.

Asked whether the secretary-general has full confidence in Pronk, Dujarric replied, "Yes he does."

The Sudanese government on Sunday gave Pronk three days to leave the country, heightening a dispute between the UN and the Khartoum government over peacekeeping in conflict-wracked Darfur province.

Sudan has refused to allow UN peacekeepers to replace a poorly equipped African Union force that has been unable to halt escalating violence in the vast western region.

Dujarric noted that Annan had repeatedly expressed concern "about the military build-up in Darfur" and stood by his envoy's statements and monthly reports to the Security Council, which have painted a grim picture of stepped up rape, murder and pillage.

Violence has risen dramatically in recent weeks in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in more than three years of fighting.

The outspoken Pronk, a former Dutch politician and diplomat, leveled the accusation about the Sudanese army in his personal Web blog.

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