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Sudan expels U.N. diplomat over comments on Darfur

October 23, 2006|Edmund Sanders | Times Staff Writer

NAIROBI, KENYA -- The Sudanese government ordered a United Nations envoy out of the country on Sunday, the latest sign of deteriorating relations between Khartoum and the international body over how to stop the violence in the Darfur region.

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

The expulsion marked another diplomatic snub by President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir and his administration, which has resisted pressure from the United Nations and the United States in recent months to accept U.N. peacekeepers in troubled western Sudan.

More than 200,000 people have died in Darfur since 2004, mostly of hunger and disease linked to fighting between rebels and government soldiers. The government also has been accused of unleashing bands of Arab militiamen, known as janjaweed, to kill civilians in a campaign that U.S. officials call genocide.

The government-controlled news agency on Sunday characterized Pronk's recent activities and comments as "incompatible with his mission" and an "enmity to the Sudanese government and the armed forces."

The Sudanese government said it would be willing to work with Pronk's replacement, should a new diplomat be named, the state-run news agency said.

On his blog this month, Pronk, 66, criticized the government for violating U.N. resolutions that banned armed mobilizations in Darfur and said Sudanese troops had suffered heavy losses in recent battles.

"The morale in the government army in north Darfur has gone down," Pronk wrote Oct. 14. "Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused to fight."

The remarks infuriated Sudanese military officials, who demanded an apology.

For much of the year, one of Pronk's priorities was to pressure Khartoum to accept about 20,000 U.N. troops to replace 7,000 beleaguered African Union troops patrolling the region.

But Bashir and other Sudanese leaders rejected any involvement by U.N. peacekeepers, warning that their deployment would be seen as an act of war. Last month, Pronk said a U.N. deployment seemed unlikely anytime soon.

Pronk could not be reached Sunday for comment. An aide, Sajin Khan, confirmed the expulsion order and said that he would have a response after Pronk had consulted with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In New York, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Pronk had been asked to come to New York for the consultation, the Associated Press reported.

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edmund.sanders@latimes.com

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