- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 22, 2006

KHARTOUM, Sudan — The government yesterday ordered the chief U.N. envoy out of the country after he wrote that Sudan’s army had suffered major losses in recent fighting in Darfur.

Jan Pronk was given 72 hours to leave — an order that is likely to complicate international efforts to halt the killings, rapes and other atrocities in the strife-torn region of western Sudan.

“The presence of the United Nations is vital to hundreds of thousands of citizens of the Darfur region,” said a spokesman for the European Union, Amadeu Altafaj Tardio, in Brussels.

In a statement distributed by the official news agency, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry accused Mr. Pronk of demonstrating “enmity to the Sudanese government and the armed forces” and of involvement in unspecified activities “that are incompatible with his mission.”

In New York, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Kofi Annan had received a letter from the Sudanese government asking that Mr. Pronk be removed from the post.

“The secretary-general is studying the letter and has in the meantime requested that Mr. Pronk come to New York for consultations,” Mr. Dujarric said.

Mr. Pronk, a blunt-speaking former Dutch Cabinet minister, drew sharp criticism from the Sudanese armed forces after he wrote this month in his blog, www.janpronk.nl, that Sudan’s military had suffered heavy losses in recent fighting with rebels in northern Darfur.

“Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles, many wounded soldiers and many taken as prisoner,” he said.

The Sudanese armed forces said Thursday that those remarks amounted to “psychological war against the Sudanese army” and declared that Mr. Pronk was “persona non-grata.” One day later, the military demanded an official apology.

Even before the blog appeared, Sudan’s government had been at odds with Mr. Pronk over Western efforts to get Sudan to allow a U.N. force of 20,000 troops to take over peacekeeping in Darfur from a 7,000-member force of the African Union.

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

U.N. officials have said the AU force is too small and ill-equipped to cope with the violence and protect civilians from rape, killing and pillage.

But Sudan’s president, Lt. Gen. Omar Bashir, has rejected a U.N. peacekeeping force, branding it a bid to restore colonial rule.

Despite the move against Mr. Pronk, the official news agency said Khartoum was “committed to cooperate” with the United Nations and would work with a new envoy “in accordance with signed treaties with the U.N. and the current principles of international law.”

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