The United States is upgrading its diplomatic representation in Sudan, reflecting the growing role by the Bush administration in seeking a settlement of Sudan's long-running civil war. The new U.S. charge d'affaires for Sudan, Jeffrey Millington, will divide his time between Khartoum and Nairobi, which is a base for African mediation efforts for Sudan.
The United States has not had a fully staffed embassy in Khartoum since 1996, when the last ambassador and other diplomats were evacuated for security reasons. But officials here say the appointment of Mr. Millington as the new charge d'affaires does represent at least an incremental step back toward a more normal relationship.
At a briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Mr. Millington is more senior than his predecessor in the job, Raymond Brown, and will be responsible for pressing the Sudanese parties to fulfill their commitments under the partial peace accord negotiated earlier this year by U.S. special envoy John Danforth.
"He has worked on Sudan issues for a number of years," said Mr. Boucher. "His main task will be to insure that the parties to the conflict fully implement the four peace-building proposals put forth by Senator Danforth, and then to facilitate talks under the framework of the regional body, the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development. Like his predecessors, he will spend part of his time in Khartoum, and much of his time as well in Nairobi, working with those in Nairobi who are interested in peace in Sudan."
The Islamic government in Khartoum and the southern Sudanese rebels agreed in January, through U.S. mediation, to open the bitterly-contested Nuba Mountains region to access by humanitarian aid groups. They also committed themselves to other confidence-building steps, including an end to bombardment of civilians, the creation of so-called "zones of tranquility" for immunization programs, and an end to abduction and enslavement of civilians.
The two sides' support for the peace measures has thus far been mixed. But at a meeting with President Bush early last week, Mr. Danforth recommended that the United States step-up its drive toward a broader peace agreement, and agreed to stay on in the special envoy post.
Administration officials say the U.S. efforts will be coordinated with the Inter-Government Authority for Development, better known as "IGAD" - a Kenyan-led group of East African countries that has been working for a settlement of the Sudanese conflict since 1995.
The announcement of Mr. Millington's appointment as charge d'affaires came a day after the return from Sudan of the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Andrew Natsios, who had been dispatched there last week for a first-hand assessment of compliance with the Danforth plan.