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UN Says Darfur Flare Ups Serious

The United Nations has said that recent clashes between Sudanese militia and rebels may derail progress toward ending the Darfur crisis.

The United Nations says recent clashes between Sudanese militia and rebel forces in Darfur may be serious enough to undermine attempts at a peace agreement in the region.

The rebel Sudan Liberation Army says seven civilians were killed when Sudanese military forces used helicopters to raid Darfuri villages.

Sudan's government reports that five military personnel were killed while guarding civilians on the road between El Fasher, the North Darfur capital, and Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

U.N. Mission in Sudan spokesperson Radhia Achouri says monitors have yet to determine if the violence was the fault of a few rogue rebels and soldiers or a planned attack.

"We know that because of some internal problems in the rebel groups sometimes you have just isolated incidents because one commander on the ground decided to do something without resorting to his chain of command," she said. " So what we are trying to look at is if it is actually just an isolated incident or two isolated incidents initiated by some individuals at their own initiative or if it is a more serious issue and there will be a resurgence of clashes between the rebels per se, as groups and as political entities and as a rebellion against the government."

Earlier this month the Government of Sudan and Darfur's two main rebel factions, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement signed an agreement to contribute to a framework for a peaceful settlement. Ms. Achouri says this week's violence has cast some doubt upon the success of that agreement and upon the next round of peace talks set for August in Abuja, Nigeria.

"This is quite serious because they just signed the declaration of principles," she explained. "We had quite a more or less a calm period recently. We have all reasons, we had, we thought we had all reasons to hope that the Abuja talks are going to be quite decisive, I mean the next round. And if this happens, this is a very bad signal, be it to the people on the ground, the Darfuris or to everybody that is following the process."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Darfur last week. She said Sudan has a credibility problem in the international community, due to the situation in Darfur. Secretary Rice said the situation demands action, not words.

The U.S. government has called the Darfur conflict genocide.

An estimated 200,000 people have died in the conflict and two million more have been displaced. The Sudanese government is charged with arming Arab militias to crush a 2003 uprising in the western region. The government denies the charges.