- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2007

NEW YORK — The senior U.N. official in Iraq will play a key role in attempting to stop a civil war in another international hot spot — Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday appointed Ashraf Jehangir Qazi as special representative for Sudan, a job that has been vacant for nearly a year.

Mr. Qazi, who has served in Baghdad since 2004, will take up his new post later this month, U.N. officials said.

He is to be replaced in Iraq by his deputy, Staffan de Mistura, of Sweden, who has served in U.N. positions in Lebanon.

Citing Mr. Qazi’s “wide and extensive diplomatic skills and experience,” Mr. Ban announced his decision during a visit to the southern Sudanese capital of Juba at a joint press conference with First Vice President Salva Kiir.

Mr. Kiir is the de facto leader of the autonomous region of Southern Sudan and successor to longtime southern Sudanese leader Col. John Garang, who was killed in a plane crash.

As Mr. Ban’s representative, Mr. Qazi will be overseeing U.N. diplomatic efforts regarding Darfur, as well as the ongoing battle for self-governance and resources in Southern Sudan.

Both conflicts have spawned elaborate peace efforts involving the government and rebel groups, but neither is close to resolution.

Nearly 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers maintain the tense border between north and south Sudan, while the world body is preparing to send about 26,000 peacekeepers, mostly African soldiers and police officers, to Darfur.

The United Nations is also delivering humanitarian assistance to both regions, and has promised to implement development programs when stability allows.

Mr. Ban’s delegation will move on to Darfur today, to survey the inhospitable landscape where peacekeepers will patrol.

Mr. Ban, who has made Darfur one of his priorities, is in the middle of his first trip to the region.

On Monday, he met with Sudanese President Omar Bashir in Khartoum to seek his continued cooperation with the Darfur mission.

Mr. Ban is also slated to meet Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and President Idriss Deby of Chad.

Mr. Qazi, 65, has previously served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Russia, the former East Germany, Syria and China. He was ambassador to Washington from 2002 to 2004.

His predecessor, Jan Pronk, was expelled by the Sudanese government last October, after he criticized the army on the Internet.

Darfur has become an international symbol of human rights abuses, the rallying point for those who think that the international community has an obligation to intervene when a government endangers or refuses to protect its citizens.

The 12,000 aid workers in Darfur are experiencing the same hardships as the people they’ve been sent to help.

“Daily attacks, banditry, lawlessness and other violence affect aid workers just as they affect the people of Darfur,” assistant U.N. relief coordinator Margareta Wahlstrom told reporters on Friday.

In four years of violence, the U.N. estimates that 230,000 have been killed and about 2.3 million uprooted from their homes.

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