The new United Nations peacekeeping chief says only half of the 26,000 peacekeepers assigned to Sudan's Darfur region will be deployed by the end of the year.

The U.N.'s Alain Le Roy said Wednesday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's previous assessment that 80 percent of the peacekeepers would be on the ground was a bit "optimistic."

Speaking at his first press conference since taking the post, Le Roy said he expected an additional 3,000 soldiers and police, mostly from Ethiopia and Egypt, to join the nearly 10,000 personnel in Sudan by year's end.

But the French diplomat said he thought the Thai and Nepalese battalions likely would come later than originally planned.

The U.N. has mandated its peacekeepers to help a beleaguered African Union stabilize Darfur.

Earlier Wednesday, Darfur rebel groups said Sudanese forces attacked camps in northern Darfur, near the town of Tawila. Sudanese officials have not commented on the report.

More than five years of fighting in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million others.

The conflict began in 2003, when African ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-led government and state-backed Arab militias.  


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.