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Bush to Name Natsios as Special Envoy for Darfur

President Bush will name a special envoy to help stop the violence in Sudan's Darfur region. The announcement is expected Tuesday when Mr. Bush addresses the U.N. General Assembly. Pressure is intensifying on Sudanese leaders to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.

U.S. officials say President Bush has decided to appoint former U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew Natsios as his special envoy on the crisis in Darfur.

The news came as Sudanese officials, under intense pressure, signaled they would allow African Union peacekeepers to stay in Darfur for another six months. The current AU peacekeeping mandate expires at the end of the month, and the U.N. Security Council had approved a plan that would transform the AU mission into a larger, better-equipped U.N. force.

But that plan was blocked by Sudan, leading to fears of a security void in the war-ravaged region. Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has said he would consider U.N. troops in Darfur as a foreign occupation force.

But in comments to the Security Council Monday, the U.N. special envoy to Darfur Jan Pronk called President Bashir's objections "unwise".

"The U.N. does not deserve the insinuations from Sudanese political leadership in power," said Jan Pronk. "We do not intend to recolonize, nor are we laying a carpet for others to do so. We do not have a hidden agenda."

African Union officials say a formal decision on extending the peacekeeping mandate could come Wednesday. That's when President Bashir meets with the AU Peace and Security Council on the sidelines of the U.N. general assembly. The meeting had been set for Monday, but was postponed until Wednesday to allow more African heads of state to attend.

The postponement underscores the intense diplomatic pressure the Sudanese face this week in New York.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met her Chinese counterpart at the U.N. Monday to ask Beijing to help in persuading Sudan that allowing U.N. peacekeepers would be in their interest. China had abstained last month when the Security Council authorized the 20,000 strong U.N. mission.

In addition, the United States and Denmark have asked for a ministerial level Security Council meeting on Darfur later this week.

Two influential U.S. Senators, Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Barbara Boxer, also came to U.N. headquarters Monday to press the case with Sudan's U.N. Ambassador. Senator Coleman said stronger diplomatic pressure is needed to overcome Sudan's refusal.

"If the Security Council would come together in a strong, unified, clear unequivocal voice that said we are not going to allow genocide to continue under our watch, then I think there would be little option but for Sudan to accept the reality of a U.N. force being there," said Norm Coleman.

A senior British diplomat Monday urged the international community to keep all options open on Darfur, including the possibility of military intervention. The foreign office minister for Africa, David Triesman said conditions in the western Sudanese region are at what he called "a tipping point"

"AU peacekeepers are being killed more or less on a daily basis," said David Triesman. "Displaced people grew by 50,000 this week. Helicopter gunships being deployed again, and probably fixed wing craft too, and for all these reasons, it's important to see if we can arrest this, before it tips."

Triesman said British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been holding meetings with other heads of state to urge them to put pressure on Sudanese leaders. And French President Jacques Chirac said Monday he would make a "solemn appeal" to the Sudanese President Bashir during their General Assembly meeting this week.