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Burkina Faso minister to be Darfur mediator

June 27, 2008 (UNITED NATIONS) — Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole has been chosen as the new U.N. and African Union joint chief mediator for Darfur, though his appointment has yet to be confirmed, diplomats said Friday.

Several diplomats told Reuters the United Nations and AU had settled on Bassole as the best choice to try to broker a resolution to the five-year-old conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

"Bassole has been chosen," said one diplomat. "Now the question is whether everyone involved will give their final agreement."

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the appointment is not yet official. They said it was still possible that Sudanese President President Omar Hassan al-Bashir could object to Bassole’s appointment.

However, they said the AU was expected to endorse Bassole as the mediator at its foreign ministers meeting now under way in the Egyptian Red Sea town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

If confirmed, Bassole will replace the dual negotiating team of AU special envoy for Darfur Salim Ahmed Salim and his counterpart at the United Nations, Jan Eliasson.

Burkina Faso helped mediate talks between the government and rebels in Ivory Coast’s civil war and Bassole was actively involved.

Diplomats on the U.N. Security Council have said there is wide agreement that the idea of having two mediators going in and out of Darfur has not been an effective way of getting the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels to make make peace.

The appointment of a single U.N.-AU mediator permanently based in Darfur is long overdue, they said.

International experts estimate that some 200,000 people have died and another 2.5 million been left homeless because of the conflict in Darfur. Khartoum says 10,000 have died.

Darfur’s stalled peace talks were dealt another blow last month when the rebel Justice and Equality Movement attacked a suburb of Khartoum.

Eliasson and Salim said this week an international summit should be called to put pressure on the parties to come back to the negotiating table.

(Reuters)