(AFP)- US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan agreed on the need to send a special UN envoy back to Sudan after the world body's representative to Khartoum was expelled, US officials said.
But Washington did not suggest demanding that the Sudanese government accept the return of the ousted diplomat, Jan Pronk of the Netherlands, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
Pronk, 66, was ordered out of Sudan at the weekend after reporting in a personal weblog that the Sudanese army had suffered major losses in fighting against rebels in the strife-torn Darfur region, reports Trend.
Annan's spokesman said earlier this week that Pronk retained the full support of the UN chief and continued to hold his position as the secretary general's personal envoy to Sudan.
Rice discussed the issue with Annan on Wednesday, but agreed only that the position of UN envoy to Sudan be maintained, without endorsing Pronk in that role, McCormack said.
"She and Secretary General Annan agreed on the importance of that function continuing to be performed on behalf of the UN in Sudan," he said.
"Whether or not to send Mr Pronk himself back or send somebody else in that post is up to Mr Annan," he said.
The dispute with Sudan complicates delicate diplomatic efforts to persuade Khartoum to comply with a UN resolution demanding deployment of UN peacekeepers into Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have died since a rebellion by the region's ethnic African population erupted.
The government of President Omar al-Beshir stands accused of funding and arming an Arab militia held responsible for much of the violence.
Beshir's regime has consistently rejected a strong UN presence in Darfur, charging that the plan was part of a US-engineered plot to invade his country and plunder its resources.
McCormack said Washington was growing increasingly worried about ongoing violence against civilians in the vast Darfur region.
"It is not getting any better and we're very concernd that it could well be getting worse," he said.
The United States has called on Sudan's partners in the Arab League to step up pressure on Khartoum to accept the UN force, notably by reassuring Sudanese leaders that the peackeepers would not be tasked with arresting officials held responsible for crimes against humanity in Darfur.
"We have said in public and in private that that is not in the mandate of this UN force and we've asked Arab states that have contacts and influence with the Sudanese government to reassure them on that score," McCormack said.