The African Union on Tuesday expressed "regret" at Sudan's expulsion of UN envoy Jan Pronk and lauded the diplomat for his "tireless efforts" to help the country.
Alpha Oumar Konare, chairman of AU commission, also urged restraint by all parties in the ongoing conflict in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region and called for an immediate end to hostilities in the area.
"Konare regrets the decision of the government of the Sudan to expel the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Sudan, Jan Pronk," the pan-African body said in a statement released here.
Konare "pays tribute to Pronk for his commitment to human security and human rights and for the tireless efforts he has deployed in the promotion of reconciliation and lasting peace in Sudan," it said.
Pronk left Sudan on Monday, a day after Khartoum gave him 72 hours to leave, accusing him of overstepping his mandate and intruding in internal military affairs by reporting army defeats in Darfur and poor morale on his website.
Annan has recalled Pronk to New York for consultations but retains full confidence and support in his envoy, a UN spokesman said on Monday.
At least 200,000 people have died as a result of fighting, famine and disease, and more than two million fled their homes since rebels launched an uprising in Darfur in early 2003, drawing a scorched earth response from the military and its militia allies.
Khartoum's expulsion touched off broad international condemnation, with Washington calling it "unfortunate in the extreme," Britain saying it was "counter-productive" and France voicing "regret."
The African Union had not commented on the expulsion before Konare's statement.
The 53-member AU mediated a faltering May peace deal between Khartoum and one Darfur rebel group and has an embattled peacekeeping mission on the ground in the region but has been appealing for the UN to take over the force.
Khartoum has thus far refused and in his statement, Konare called for all sides "to refrain from any action that could jeopardise the peace process and, in particular, to put an immediate end to any military action which can only aggravate the security situation in Darfur".
"He appeals to the Sudanese parties to recommit themselves to the path of political dialogue as the only course to bring about lasting peace to Darfur and the Sudan at large," the statement said.