- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2006

Jan Pronk, the senior U.N. envoy to Sudan, said in a telephone interview that he sensed Khartoum was getting ready to expel him weeks before an announcement Sunday that he had been given three days to leave Sudan because of remarks on his personal Web site.

Mr. Pronk, who has been pressing the Sudanese authorities and rebel parties to implement peace treaties and accept a stronger international peacekeeping force in Darfur, was to have left Khartoum last night and arrive in New York late tomorrow.

Western governments yesterday protested Sudan’s expulsion of the diplomat, who had described heavy casualties and sagging morale among Sudanese forces in a blog at his personal Web site, www.janpronk.nl. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the Sudanese decision “unfortunate in the extreme.”

Mr. Pronk said in the interview that he was not surprised by the edict.

“During the past few weeks it was obvious they had something in mind,” he said, noting that Sudanese Army officials had threatened him with expulsion weeks ago after he had published information or opinions the government found objectionable.

He also said the Sudanese government had “put a prize on my head through a student newspaper last year. That was after I proposed replacing the African peacekeepers in Darfur with U.N. forces.”

The United Nations declined to comment on the propriety of the personal postings, and officials maintained that there was no change in Mr. Pronk’s status.

“We have recalled him for consultations,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. “He remains the special envoy. His status is not affected by his having been recalled for consultations.”

Mr. Pronk, an outspoken Dutch national who has long worked in the U.N. political and peacekeeping departments, was posted to Khartoum in 2004.

On a blog entry dated Oct. 14, he offered an overview of the political situation, including the army’s military failures and a splintering of the rebel factions, rarely providing the sources of his information.

The Sudanese military “has lost two major battles, last month in Umm Sidir and this week in Karakaya,” Mr. Pronk wrote. “The losses seem to have been very high. Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles, with many wounded and many taken as prisoner.

“The morale in the government army in North Darfur has gone down. Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused to fight. The government has responded by directing more troops and equipment from elsewhere to the region and by mobilizing Arab militia. This is a dangerous development. Security Council resolutions which forbid armed mobilization are being violated.”

U.N. officials could only point to one other high-level blogger within the United Nations — head of public information and former candidate for secretary-general Shashi Tharoor, whose Web site is a compendium of his public remarks, articles and interviews.

“Policy changes or interpretations of existing staff rules … will have to be interpreted to be adapted to this 21st-century phenomenon,” Mr. Dujarric told reporters yesterday.

“We have fairly liberal rules in terms of staff members being able to write or speak freely, but obviously they need to exercise proper judgment in doing so.”

Asked whether Mr. Pronk’s comments had “complicated” difficult negotiations to convert the 7,000-troop African Union force in Darfur to a better-armed 20,000-member U.N. peacekeeping mission, Mr. Dujarric said, “The situation in Darfur and the transition has always been delicate.”

Dutch Interior Minister Agnes Van Ardenne, who earlier criticized Mr. Pronk for his undiplomatic remarks, rushed to his defense. “It is very good that the world knows what is really going on in that country. Too many involved are not outspoken enough,” she said.

• Betsy Pisik reported from New York and Anton Foek reported from The Hague.

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