Reuters highlights Appointment of IRI Board Member as Envoy to Sudan

US special envoy to Sudan resigns post
By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The United States’ special envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, has resigned and will be replaced by Illinois Republican lawyer and former U.S. diplomat Richard Williamson, the White House announced on Friday.

Natsios was appointed to the post by President George W. Bush in September 2006 and has devoted much of his time to trying to resolve the crisis in Darfur, where the Bush administration says genocide occurred, and to prevent a new civil war between the north and south of Sudan.

“The president is grateful for Andrew’s service to the administration and for his dedication to the cause of peace in Sudan,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Natsios said he resigned so that he could devote more time to his teaching post at Georgetown University in Washington.

But several U.S. officials said Natsios, who had wanted to step down in June this year, was frustrated at the slow pace of getting in a 26,000-strong African Union-U.N. peacekeeping force into Darfur.

He was also fatigued by turf battles within the Bush administration on Sudan policy overall, said one official, who asked not to be named.

“There are disagreements in any democratic government … . It has nothing to do with me leaving or staying,” said Natsios in a conference call with reporters.

Natsios has been trying to hold together a crumbling 2005 peace agreement between north and south Sudan. He said the potential for civil war was a greater threat to human life than what was happening in western Darfur region, which has been the main focus of Western governments and aid groups.

“The country is very fragile at this point, and not just in Darfur. I would argue that we can’t save Darfur without saving Sudan. I think the focus on simply one region of the country is a mistake,” said Natsios.

“We need to deal with the country as a whole,” added Natsios.

Natsios’ replacement, Chicago lawyer “Rich” Williamson, is a leading Republican Party player who serves on the board of the International Republican Institute.

Williamson was deputy to former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte, who is currently Deputy Secretary of State. He was also Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs in the Reagan administration.

The crisis in Darfur has been a rallying point for a broad spectrum of religious and human rights groups and could again gain traction in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

International experts estimate some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in almost five years of revolt in Darfur.

Darfur pressure groups urged the White House to devote more time to trying to end the crisis and appoint a bigger team to back up the new envoy.

“Internally, the administration has been deeply divided at the working level on Sudan, thus undermining President Bush’s and the U.S. Congress’ desire to respond more meaningfully to the crisis in Darfur and South Sudan,” said John Prendergast of the Save Darfur Coalition.

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