If it helps anyone. The exterior door handle latch link rod is held on by a yellow plastic clip that locates to the door latch. I broke mine prying on it and finally found the answer on a Explorer forum. You can unlatch the clip by unlatching the clip at the latch assembly. Simply by pulling the tab that points directly at the actual latch assembly towards you.
Point 2 if your unable to slide the the part of the latch rod that zigzags through the actual door handle out by gently pivoting it out the culprit is likely just enough rust built up to keep it from sliding out. Mine would move but not slide out. Even after hitting it with PB Blaster and LiquidWrench. Your going to need to dissolve the rust with something like Evapo-Rust. Drape a piece of paper towel saturated with a rust remover over the handle and latch link rod where they join. After a day or so it should remove enough rust you can slip the link out. Or if your not trying to save the door handle like I was just go ahead bust it out. Your still going to want to clean the latch link rod up so it slips into your new handle easily.
Hopefully this helps someone remove the latch link rod without busting the clip or the door handle.
Regarding the lock cylinder. Mine were corroded just enough it made it seem like they were being held in by tension on the lock cylinder to latch rod. This is not the case. Mine were simply not slipping through the lock cut out in the door skin due to having just enough corrosion to keep them from slipping out. Gently work the cylinder out by applying force the the back of the lock cylinder and rocking it out. You can also stick a thin screwdriver through the lock cylinder retainer slot and gently prying on the back. Once it's outside the door skin the lock rod will fall out of the plastic retaining clip and you can remove the lock cylinder assembly.
Last edited by 97CatMan; 06-08-2015 at 10:37 PM.