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Pronk still envoy to Sudan despite explusion -UN

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 23 (Reuters) UN envoy Jan Pronk, who angered the Sudanese government by saying morale was low in the army, enjoys Secretary-General Kofi Annan's full confidence despite a government order that he quickly leave the troubled African country, the United Nations said today.

Sudanese Foreign Ministry officials told Pronk yesterday that the government considered that his mission was over and he had 72 hours to leave the country. He was headed back to New York as of today.

The order came after he posted comments on his Web log (www.janpronk.nl) stating that the army's morale was low after suffering two major defeats in the violent Darfur region.

But chief UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, speaking at UN headquarters, said Pronk had only been called to New York for discussions and ''continues to be the special representative of the secretary-general.'' Pronk still serves ''with the full support of the secretary-general,'' Dujarric said. ''As far as we are concerned, his status remains unchanged.'' Pronk's latest blog entry said Darfur rebels had beaten the army in two major battles in the last two months. He said generals had been sacked, morale was low and soldiers were refusing to fight in North Darfur.

Dujarric would not say whether the incident had complicated efforts to move a UN peacekeeping force into Darfur to replace a smaller, ill-equipped African Union force now there.

He also would not say whether Annan had spoken to Pronk about the contents of his blog or whether rules were needed to limit what UN staff can say on personal blogs.

Annan ''has fairly liberal rules in terms of staff members being able to write or speak freely, but obviously they need to exercise the proper judgment in doing so,'' Dujarric said.

Pronk, 66, a former Netherlands cabinet minister and member of parliament, was named the UN special representative for Sudan in June 2004.

He is known in Sudan for dedication to his job but also for his blunt comments, which irked some parties. He has been outspoken about Sudan's refusal to allow the UN force into Darfur despite mounting violence in recent months.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Washington, called the expulsion order ''unfortunate in the extreme'' while Kent Dagerfeld, the European Union ambassador in Sudan, urged the government to reconsider its decision.

UN peacekeeping officials were meeting Sudan's UN ambassador later on Monday and Pronk was expected to brief the UN Security Council on the expulsion order on Wednesday.


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