"I want to repeat anew that there is no ethnic cleansing or mass genocide in Darfur," insisted Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Usman Ismail on Friday.

The minister was responding to a recent report by the US-based  Human Rights Watch that charged the government forces with gross abuses in Darfur, including "mass massacres and summary executions" of local African tribes.

"What we have is a situation where there is a state of war and there are certain humanitarian conditions that have arisen from this state of war," Ismail explained.

Unfolding disaster

Aid workers have warned of a humanitarian disaster in the vast and remote region where rebels launched an armed revolt against the government in February 2003, calling for a fairer share of power and the African country's resources.

The United Nations says the conflict has forced more than one million people from their homes, while 100,000 Sudanese refugees or more have crossed into neighbouring Chad.

The Human Rights Watch accused the government of arming and supporting Arab militias, called Janjawid, who had attacked and destroyed African communities.

Government forces have reportedly acted with the Janjawid, carrying out mass executions and having women raped.

UN officials on Friday reiterated that Darfur was being swept by hunger, homelessness and deprivation, making the situation frightfully grim.

"One, there is a rein of terror in this area. Two, there is a scorched-earth policy. Three, there are repeated war crimes and crimes against humanity, and four, this is taking place before our eyes," said Bertrand Ramcharan, the acting UN high commissioner for human rights.