New York: UN chief Ban Ki-moon has appointed Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura as his new envoy to Afghanistan, shortly before departing for a crucial London conference on the war-wracked country`s future.
He told a press conference on Wednesday here that de Mistura, a 63-year-old veteran UN troubleshooter, would take up his new post on March 1, succeeding Kai Eide of Norway, who has been criticised over his handling of Afghanistan`s fraud-marred election in August.
Ban said the Swede "brings an enormous wealth of experience and skills" to the post, but also took care of praising Eide "for his leadership of UNAMA (the UN mission in Afghanistan) during a very difficult period."
De Mistura has been deputy executive director for external relations of the Rome-based World Food Program since last July, when he stepped down as UN special envoy to Iraq after less than two years in the post.
For nearly four decades, he has served the world body in conflict-ridden hot spots such as Somalia, the Middle East, the Balkans and Nepal.
Ban also noted that London conference on Afghanistan "comes at a critical moment”.
"The Afghan people want a larger say in their future especially in terms of development and national ownership is essential," he said. "At the same time, Afghans need to know that the international community will support them over the long term in building their institutions of government."