Sudan expels UN envoy over Darfur military losses

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The Independent Online

The fraught diplomatic stand-off between the UN and Sudan intensified dramatically yesterday when the Sudanese government ordered the UN's special envoy to leave the country.

Jan Pronk was expelled after comments he made about the ongoing crisis in Darfur on his personal weblog. He wrote that the Sudanese army had suffered two military defeats, involving heavy casualties during fighting with rebels in northern Darfur.

A spokesman for Sudan's foreign ministry said Mr Pronk had to leave Sudan by midday on Wednesday because he had displayed "enmity to the Sudanese government and armed forces".

An army spokesman had earlier accused the Dutch diplomat of waging a "psychological war against the Sudanese army". Sudanese officials met with Mr Pronk yesterday to inform him of the decision.

The expulsion of the UN's most senior official in Sudan has come at a time when the world body is struggling to persuade the Sudanese government to allow UN peace-keepers to enter Darfur. A resolution was passed last month recommending the deployment of 20,600 UN troops to enforce the peace agreement signed in May.

The deal was signed by only one of the major Darfur rebel groups and, since then, violence in the troubled region has increased.

Sudan has launched a fresh offensive in northern Darfur and the rebels opposed to the deal have since regrouped and fought back.

But Khartoum has refused to allow UN troops into Darfur and the Islamist President, Omar al-Bashir, has compared such a force to "Western colonisation" and vowed to personally lead the "jihad" against them.

There are currently 7,000 poorly equipped African Union troops in Darfur but they have been unable to stem the violence.

In his entry for 14 October, Pronk wrote that casualties in Sudanese Armed Forces from two recent battles "seem to have been very high. Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles with many wounded and many taken as prisoner. The morale in the Government army in North Darfur has gone down. Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused to fight."

He also claimed the government had responded by employing Arab militia instead of government forces, something he said was a "dangerous development".

When the Darfur crisis exploded three years ago, the Sudanese government used horse-riding Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed, to attack towns and villages that were home to rebels.

Some senior UN officials are privately unhappy with Mr Pronk for his comments. A UN spokeswoman yesterday stressed the comments on the blog reflected "only his personal views".

Pronk also warned that a confrontation between Sudan and its neighbour to the west, Chad, was becoming a possibility. The Sudanese army is receiving military support from Chadian rebels based in Sudan, while the Darfur rebels are supported by Chad.

Amnesty International last week warned that the Janjaweed had crossed the border into eastern Chad, killing dozens and forcing thousands to flee.