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UN's Ban Says De Mistura Is Next Afghanistan Envoy


Staffan de Mistura
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- UN chief Ban Ki-moon said today he would appoint Staffan de Mistura of Sweden as his next special envoy in Afghanistan to help oversee a beefed-up civilian drive to bring peace there.

De Mistura, currently a senior official at the UN World Food Program in Rome and former UN special envoy to Iraq, will succeed Kai Eide of Norway and take up his appointment on March 1, Ban told reporters.

Ban's announcement came one day before a 60-nation conference he will attend in London, which will seek to set a framework for eventually handing security over to Afghan forces. NATO powers are expected to back plans by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to reach out to Taliban insurgents.

De Mistura is expected to play an important role supporting U.S. President Barack Obama's new policy in Afghanistan, which includes more U.S. and NATO troops to fight the Taliban insurgency and a "civilian surge."

On January 26, NATO named a senior British diplomat, Mark Sedwill, to be its civilian representative in Afghanistan. The European Union is also expected to appoint a new envoy.

De Mistura had been tipped for weeks to be the new UN envoy, but briefly withdrew from the race last week, citing family reasons.

Diplomats said Ban spoke with de Mistura over the weekend and the Swede told the secretary-general he had changed his mind and would accept the offer.