WASHINGTON - President Bush's special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, resigned yesterday and was replaced by a former US diplomat to the United Nations amid questions about the administration's policies toward the vast African nation.
Also yesterday, the State Department's top diplomat for refugee crises announced her imminent departure.
Ellen Sauerbrey, the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, who has been criticized for the handling of Iraqi refugee admissions, said she would be leaving the post soon.
By law, Sauerbrey, a former Republican politician whom Bush named as a "recess appointment," bypassing a tough fight for Senate confirmation, cannot stay in the position after Congress returns in mid-January from its holiday break unless she is renominated and confirmed.
"It has been a great privilege," she said in a farewell e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.
Natsios had overseen the administration's push to end the violence that the United States calls genocide in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region and worked to maintain a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war between north and south Sudan.
The White House announced that Natsios, a former administrator of the US Agency for International Development, would step down after just over a year on the job, during which officials said he was frequently frustrated by internal bureaucratic battles in Washington over the direction of Sudan policy.
"The president is grateful for Andrew's service to the administration and for his dedication to the cause of peace in Sudan," White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement. "He has served admirably in this position."
Natsios, who will return to academia, is to be replaced by Richard "Rich" Williamson, an attorney, former ambassador, and senior Republican Party official in Illinois, who is close to Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, the statement said.
"The United States continues to lead international efforts to deploy a large and effective peacekeeping force to Darfur, and implement the north-south peace agreement, while providing for the humanitarian needs of conflict-affected populations across Sudan," the statement said. "The president . . . is deeply grateful for Ambassador Williamson's willingness to help work for peace throughout Sudan."
Several officials and Darfur observers said he had been frustrated by bureaucratic infighting within the administration over Sudan policy and recently informed Bush and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten of his intention to resign.
Others noted he had accepted the job for a one-year tour.