UNITED NATIONS - Former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi has been named UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's new special envoy for the troubled Sahel region, the United Nations announced Tuesday. Prodi will be in charge of coordinating UN efforts to finalize and apply a regional integration strategy for the region on the southern rim of the Sahara Desert, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
Ban "looks forward to Mr Prodi's leadership in shaping and mobilizing an effective United Nations and international response to the complex crisis plaguing the countries and people of this region," Nesirky said.
Prodi, who had been proposed by Ban, gained official approval for the post on Tuesday after none of the 15 members of the Security Council objected.
The decision to name a special envoy for the Sahel was taken during a high level meeting on the situation in the region and Mali, held in late September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Several other candidates had been mentioned for the post, including Said Jinnit, an Algerian who is Ban's representative in west Africa, and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.
Prodi, 73, was Italy's prime minister from 1996 to 1998 and again from 2006 to 2008. He also was president of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004.
Bamako and its west African neighbors want the United Nations to give its blessing to a pan-African military intervention in northern Mali, which is controlled by Islamist extremists. France has urged the UN Security Council to quickly adopt a resolution clearing the way for a UN green light to such a mission.