The British diplomat, who succeeded Jan Egeland of Norway, stressed that only a political solution could end suffering in the remote region of southern Sudan.

"Obviously the first thing is to reach a political solution which will resolve the problem and remove the need for humanitarian support," Holmes, who is due to travel to Darfur on Saturday, said.

Co-operation sought

Local UN officials said the UN co-ordinator, who has expressed fears that the space for humanitarian operations to work in Darfur is diminishing, was seeking better co-operation from the Sudanese government.  

About 14,000 aid workers operate
in the Darfur region [EPA]
Manibe dismissed allegations that Sudan was creating bureaucratic obstacles that made it more and more difficult for aid groups and non-governmental organisations to reach Darfur.
   
He said procedures were being examined to make it easier to get to region, and condemned attacks that have killed aid workers and restricted their work through violence and intimidation.
   
"They are there to save lives," Manibe said.

Darfur has the world's largest humanitarian operation involving about 14,000 aid workers, most of whom are Sudanese nationals working for international organisations.

The government has come under international pressure to ease the suffering in Darfur, where an estimated 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes in a four-year-old revolt. Washington calls the violence genocide.

Sanctions urged

Khartoum denies allegations of widespread human rights violations, including killings, rapes and arbitrary arrests carried out by government-backed Arab Janjawid militias, and blames the abuses on rebels.

Tony Blair, the British prime minister, has urged European leaders to support targeted sanctions against the Sudanese government.

Blair has written to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, saying it is time to get tough with Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, his official spokesman said.
   
"Enough is enough," the spokesman said, quoting from Blair's letter. "President Bashir is clearly not complying with the agreement."
   
"The prime minister believes it's time for a new tough UN resolution which would mean targeted sanctions aimed at the top 100 members of Sudan's government and also at those who are supporting them."