Former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi has been named U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy for the troubled Sahel region of Africa.
Mr. Prodi will be in charge of coordinating U.N. efforts to finalize and apply a regional integration strategy for the region on the southern rim of the Sahara Desert, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said in announcing the appointment last week.
Mr. Ban "looks forward to Mr. Prodi's leadership in shaping and mobilizing an effective United Nations and international response to the complex crisis plaguing the countries and people of this region," Mr. Nesirky said.
Mr. Prodi, who had been proposed by Mr. Ban, gained official approval for the post after none of the 15 members of the Security Council objected.
The decision to name a special envoy for the Sahel was taken during a high-level meeting on the situation in the region and Mali, held in late September during the U.N. General Assembly session.
Several other candidates had been mentioned for the post, including Said Djinnit, an Algerian who is Mr. Ban's representative in West Africa, and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Mr. Prodi, 73, was Italy's prime minister from 1996 to 1998 and again from 2006 to 2008. He also was president of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004.
Officials scoff at Crisis Group's warning
KABUL — Afghan and U.N. officials have dismissed a warning from a well-respected international think tank that the Kabul government might collapse after NATO troops withdraw in 2014.
The International Crisis Group, based in Brussels, issued a report last week predicting that the Western-backed administration could fall apart, particularly if Afghan presidential elections in 2014 are fraudulent or rigged.
A presidential spokesman dismissed the report as "nonsense and garbage."
"We have a very long history. We have fought against superpowers, and we know how to defend our country," said spokesman Hamid Elmi.
Candace Rondeaux, the group's senior Afghanistan analyst, said there is "a real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse upon NATO's withdrawal,"
The report said the country is on course for another set of fraudulent elections, which could undermine what little hope remains for stability after the Afghan government takes full responsibility for security from U.S.-led NATO forces.
Regime warns UAE over island dispute
TEHRAN — Iran says it may cut diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates if the Arab nation keeps repeating claims to three Gulf islands that are controlled by Tehran.
Iran took control of the Persian Gulf islands in 1971, after British forces left the region. The islands dominate the approach to the Strait of Hormuz, a key waterway through which about one-fifth of the world's oil supply passes.
The news website of Iran's parliament, ICANA.ir, quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying Iran will either cut or reduce ties with the UAE if the UAE repeats "anti-Iranian, baseless claims."
The UAE repeatedly has claimed the tiny Abu Musa and the nearby Greater and Lesser Tunb islands. At the U.N. General Assembly last month, it said Iran's "occupation" violates international law.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports