Sunday, October 22, 2006

Khartoum considers Jan Pronk's mission in Sudan over

Reuters report by Opheera McDoom, via Swissinfo 22 Oct 2006:
Sudan on Sunday ordered top U.N. envoy Jan Pronk to leave the country within three days following comments he made that the army's morale was low after suffering two major defeats in the violent Darfur region.

"The government ... considers Jan Pronk's mission ... in Sudan over and Mr. Pronk has to leave Sudanese soil within 72 hours from midday on Sunday," a Foreign Ministry statement obtained by Reuters said.

"The reason is the latest statements issued by Mr. Pronk on his Web site regarding severe criticism of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the fact that he said the government of Sudan is not implementing the Darfur peace agreement," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig.

Foreign Ministry officials met with Pronk on Sunday and informed him of the decision, he added. The ministry said Khartoum would continue to cooperate with the United Nations.

In New York, a spokesman said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked Pronk to return to headquarters immediately for consultations but made no comment on the dispute.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Annan had received a letter on Sunday from Sudan asking him to withdraw Pronk.

Pronk has previously had problems with the government because of comments he published on his Web log The latest blog entry said Darfur rebels had beaten the army in two major battles in the last two months.

He said generals had been sacked, morale was low and soldiers were refusing to fight in North Darfur. The army was furious and issued a statement on Friday calling Pronk a danger to the nation's security.

One army source said they were asking President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the commander-in-chief of the army, to expel Pronk.

Al-Sadig said rebels would consider Pronk's comments as encouragement to continue their military campaign.


Khalil Ibrahim, a senior member of the rebel National Redemption Front (NRF), told Reuters the decision to expel Pronk did not come from politicians but was a diktat from the army.

"They don't want to leave any free voices in Sudan. ... Jan Pronk was the voice of those suffering in Darfur," he said.

Pronk, 66, a former Netherlands development minister, served several terms in the Dutch parliament and was in the cabinet under two prime ministers. Annan named him U.N. special representative for Sudan in June 2004.

Pronk is known in Sudan for his dedication to his job but also his blunt comments, which irked some parties. He has been outspoken about Sudan's refusal to allow a U.N. force into Darfur where violence has mounted in recent months.

Sudanese privately call him the "governor-general" of Khartoum, a reference to the former British colonial ruler.

Ibrahim said although he has had conflicts with Pronk, he considered the U.N. official fair and unbiased.

"The government could not bribe him with money or contain him and that is why they want him out," he added.

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