The State Department said Tuesday veteran diplomat Roger Winter has been named to be a U.S. special representative for Sudan. He will work under Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick who has made three trips to Sudan this year.
The Bush administration has been reluctant to name diplomatic special envoys, with officials saying their duties often overlap with U.S. ambassadors and others in the State Department.
But it is making another exception in the case of Sudan, where former Senator John Danforth served in a similar capacity for three years, beginning in 2001.
Announcement of the appointment of Mr. Winter came from State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, who said the former senior official of the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, will have the title of special representative of the deputy secretary of state for Sudan.
Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick has been the administration's point-man for Sudan since taking office earlier this year, visiting the troubled country three times in recent months to advance Darfur peace efforts and implementation of the north-south peace accord concluded earlier this year.
Spokesman McCormack said the appointment of Mr. Winter in no way indicates a lessening of the deputy secretary's role, and that there is a need for still more U.S. involvement. "Certainly it's an indication of the importance that we place on the issue. And as you know, Deputy Secretary Zoellick has been deeply involved with the parties in trying to move the process forward. I think part of what Mr. Winter will be doing, as well as help to maintain what momentum there is in the Abuja talks process, will be to try to find a political settlement in Sudan, which ultimately is the way to address long-term the security and the humanitarian situation there," he said.
Mr. Winter's appointment followed by just a few days the first visit to Sudan by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who held talks with leaders in Khartoum and visited Darfur last Thursday, where she met with refugees and members of the African Union peacekeeping force.
Although violence in Darfur has diminished in recent months, an estimated two million displaced people remain in camps in Darfur and across the border in Chad.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when local African rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government.
Government-backed Arab militiamen responded with a scorched-earth campaign in Darfur that has led to the deaths of more than 200,000 people and been described by the United States as genocide.
The United States has supported Darfur peace talks in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, and has promoted the power-sharing agreement in the north-south conflict as a model for resolving Darfur issues.
The new Sudan envoy, Mr. Winter, was a member of the U.S. team, led by Senator Danforth, that helped negotiate the north-south peace accord, and as deputy USAID administrator was also involved in talks that led to the April 2004 cease-fire agreement in Darfur.