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US special envoy to Sudan resigns and former diplomat replaces him

US special envoy to Sudan resigns and former diplomat replaces him

President George W. Bush's special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, resigned and was replaced by a former U.S. diplomat to the United Nations amid questions about the administration's policies toward the vast African nation.
Also Friday, the State Department's top diplomat for refugee crises announced her imminent departure. Ellen Sauerbrey, the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, who has been criticized for the handling of Iraqi refugee admissions, said she would be leaving the post soon.
By law, Sauerbrey, a former Republican politician whom Bush named as a "recess appointment," bypassing a tough fight for Senate confirmation, cannot stay in the position after Congress returns in mid-January from its holiday break unless she is re-nominated and confirmed.
"It has been a great privilege," she said in a farewell e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.
Natsios, the Sudan envoy, had overseen a push to end the violence that the United States calls genocide in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region and worked to maintain a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war between north and south Sudan.
The White House announced that Natsios, a former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, would step down after just over a year on the job during which officials said he was frequently frustrated by internal bureaucratic battles in Washington over the direction of the policy.
"The president is grateful for Andrew's service to the administration and for his dedication to the cause of peace in Sudan," White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement. "He has served admirably in this position."
Natsios, who plans to return to academia, will be replaced by Richard "Rich" Williamson, an attorney, former ambassador and senior Republican party official, who is close to Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, the statement said.
Although no details of Natsios' resignation were released, several officials and Darfur observers said he had been frustrated by bureaucratic infighting within the administration over Sudan policy and recently informed Bush and White House chief of staff Josh Bolten of his intention to resign. Others noted he had accepted the job for a one-year tour.
In addition, since Natsios was appointed to the position in September 2006 he has had to deal with intransigence on the part of both the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels in negotiating the deployment of a hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force.
In a conference call with reporters, Natsios did not dispute there had been internal debates but said he had told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in September that he would have to leave the job by the end of the year due to teaching commitments at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
He also warned that the shaky north-south peace agreement could unravel, shattering chances for a settlement in Darfur and splintering Sudan into a collection of warring regional entities.
After news of the resignation became public, Darfur advocates called for the White House to appoint a full-time envoy to deal with the crisis that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million since 2003 when the region's ethnic African rebels began fighting the Arab-dominated Sudanese government and its militia allies.
"The president should appoint a full-time envoy answering directly to him, and end the crippling turf battles once and for all," said John Prendergast, co-chair of the ENOUGH Project that fights genocide and crimes against humanity and a board member of the Save Darfur Coalition.
Prendergast said Williamson is a "hard-nosed negotiator" who cares deeply about the plight of the Sudanese people and might be more able than Natsios to break through the bureaucracy to make a mark on Sudan policy.
Earlier this week, Congress passed legislation that would allow states, localities and private investors in the United States to cut their investment ties with Sudan.
The legislation adds to sanctions already in place against the Khartoum government meant to pressure Sudan into ending the murderous violence in Darfur region of the country. Bush is expected to sign the bill, despite concerns in his administration about Congress authorizing state and local divestment policies in the foreign policy area.


Updated : 2020-12-01 02:23 GMT+08:00