Ismail said in Cairo the 17-month conflict in the Darfur region had led to the loss of approximately 5000 lives. Of these, 486 were Sudanese policemen.

The UN says up to 50,000 people have died in Darfur, with a further 1.2 million displaced from their homes and more than 130,000 forced to flee to neighbouring Chad.

Ismail said these figures were out of proportion and challenged the UN to give details, saying: "Tell us their names or show us their graves."

The government has sent its forces into Darfur to stabilise the area, protect the people and head off a civil war, which had threatened to engulf the region after the rebels took up arms and began terrorising the people, he added.

Rebels to blame

Sudan says rebels have political
motives for destabilising Darfur

"There is a humanitarian, security and political problem in Darfur as a result of the war that was started by the rebels for political reasons," said Ismail.

The situation had been misrepresented in media reports as "ethnic cleansing or genocide" of tribes by the so-called "Arab" Janjawid, he added.

He said there was no need for an international peacekeeping force in the region, but added: "We do not have any problem with any number of observers or forces to protect them."

Observers could actually "contribute to confidence-building", he said.

No genocide

In another development, the European Union said on Monday its fact-finding mission to Sudan had found no evidence of genocide in the Darfur region.

"We are not in the situation of genocide there. But it is clear there is widespread killing going on and village burning of a fairly large scale"

Pieter Feith, 
EU foreign policy adviser

"We are not in the situation of genocide there," Pieter Feith, an adviser to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, said upon returning from a visit to Sudan.

"But it is clear there is widespread killing going on and village burning of a fairly large scale."

Ismail confirmed on Monday that Khartoum would send a high-level delegation to Abuja in Nigeria for negotiations with the rebels, sponsored by the African Union (AU), but stressed it would not accept any preconditions.

"We welcome the announcement about the resumption of the negotiations and we will participate at the time and place stated," he said.

The AU had earlier said that peace talks would take place in the Nigerian capital on 23 August.

An earlier AU effort to persuade the rebels to engage in direct political negotiations failed in mid-July when the two rebel groups walked out, insisting they would not participate in talks until their conditions were met.