U.N.'s Ban Ki-moon wants Ireland's Robinson for key Africa post - sources

UNITED NATIONS Tue Mar 12, 2013 4:04am GMT

Former Irish president Mary Robinson attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 26, 2013. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener

Former Irish president Mary Robinson attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Pascal Lauener

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The former President of Ireland Mary Robinson is the top candidate for the post of U.N. special envoy to Africa's Great Lakes region, where she would help implement a peace deal to end the conflict in eastern Congo, U.N. sources said on Monday.

"She is the front-runner and is very likely to get the job, but it's not a done deal yet," a U.N. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

A U.N. Security Council diplomat also told Reuters about Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's desire to name Robinson to the post.

In addition to having been Ireland's president from 1990-97, Robinson, 68, was the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002.

The sources said that Ban hoped to make an announcement soon, though they said there was a slight possibility that Robinson would decide for some reason not to take the post.

U.N. peacekeepers in Congo have been stretched thin by the "M23" rebellion in the resource-rich east. A U.N. expert panel has said that M23 was supported by Rwanda and Uganda, though the two countries have vehemently denied it.

The U.N. Security Council is considering creating a special intervention force, which one senior council diplomat has said would be able to "search and destroy" the M23 rebels and other armed groups in the country.

M23 began taking parts of eastern Congo early last year, accusing the government of failing to honour a 2009 peace deal. That deal ended a previous rebellion and led to the rebels' integration into the army, but they have since deserted.

African leaders signed a U.N.-mediated regional accord late last month aimed at ending two decades of conflict in eastern Congo and paving the way for the intervention force.

The Congolese government said on Monday it hoped to sign a peace deal with the M23 rebels on March 15, but a rebel leader said more talks were needed.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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