KHARTOUM, Sudan – The chief U.N. envoy to Sudan planned to leave the country Monday after the government ordered him out for saying its forces had suffered two major defeats in fighting in the Darfur region, a U.N. spokeswoman said.
Jan Pronk was scheduled to fly to New York for a meeting with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said spokeswoman Radhia Achouri, who did not give further details.
The departure of Pronk, an outspoken, tireless campaigner for peace in Darfur, could set back efforts to halt the violence in the western region, where fighting between pro-government and rebel forces has recently intensified.
The order issued Sunday for Pronk to leave was the government's second slap at the United Nations in three months. In August, it rejected a U.N. Security Council motion that proposed replacing the understaffed and under-equipped African Union force in Darfur with a much bigger U.N. peacekeeping operation.
Pronk, a former Dutch politician, had written on his personal Web log that the rebels had inflicted two defeats on government troops, causing a loss of morale and the firing of generals.
"Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles, many wounded soldiers and many taken as prisoner," Pronk wrote Oct. 14.
He said the government had responded by deploying more troops and members of the pro-government Janjaweed Arab militia, which is widely accused of atrocities.
"This is a dangerous development. Security Council resolutions which forbid armed mobilization are being violated," Pronk added.
The Sudanese military denounced Pronk, accusing him of waging "psychological warfare against the Sudanese army," and a general was quoted Friday as calling for his expulsion.
On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry said Pronk had shown "enmity to the Sudanese government and the armed forces" and gave him 72 hours to leave.
In New York, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Annan had received a letter from the Sudanese government asking that 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," Dujarric said.
The Sudanese government has long opposed Western efforts to get a U.N. force of 20,000 troops to take over peacekeeping in Darfur from the 7,000-member African Union force. U.N. officials say the African Union force is too small and ill-equipped to cope with the violence and protect civilians from rape, murder and pillage.
President Omar al-Bashir has branded a U.N. peacekeeping force as an attempt to restore colonial rule.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in more than three years of fighting in Darfur.
Despite the move against Pronk, the official news agency said Khartoum was "committed to cooperate" with the U.N. and would work with a new envoy "in accordance with signed treaties with the U.N. and the current principles of international law."
In Geneva, U.N. spokeswoman Marie Heuze noted that Pronk's comments were on his private blog and reflect "only his personal views."
Last June, the Sudanese suspended the work of all U.N. missions in the Darfur except UNICEF and the World Food Program after claiming the U.N. had transported a rebel leader in violation of agreements.
The next day, the government reversed the decision following a meeting between a representative of the Sudanese Foreign Ministry and the United Nations.
Darfur, a largely arid plateau in western Sudan, has been in turmoil since February 2003, when ethnic African tribes rebelled after years of neglect by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.
The government responded with a military campaign in which the Janjaweed are alleged to have committed widespread atrocities. Khartoum denies supporting the Janjaweed.
A peace deal in May was signed by the Sudanese government and the main rebel group, the Sudanese Liberation Movement.
But a breakaway faction and another rebel group rejected the deal and fighting has escalated, causing increasing numbers of aid workers to withdraw, leaving the refugees without food and medicine.
Pronk, 66, served several terms in the Dutch parliament and served in the Dutch Cabinet under two prime ministers. He was appointed as U.N. special representative for Sudan in June 2004.