UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations said Wednesday that the Sudanese government is "severely" restricting movements by peacekeepers in Darfur where fresh clashes have broken out and peace talks are deadlocked.
The Khartoum authorities are also holding up hundreds of visa applications for military, police and civilian personnel for the UN mission in Darfur, UNAMID, peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told a UN Security Council meeting on the Sudanese region where there has been conflict since 2003.
Clashes between government forces and rebel groups have increased in various parts of Darfur since December.
"The marked increase in maneuvers and clashes between government and movement forces in recent weeks was accompanied by a sharp increase in restrictions of movement imposed on UNAMID by government authorities," Ladsous told UN ambassadors.
This included restrictions on flights and patrols in areas where clashes were reported, the peacekeeping chief added.
"The denials of access have severely impeded UNAMID's ability to implement its mandate and resupply team sites in affected areas," Ladsous said, adding that repeated demands had been made to the Khartoum government to get promised "unhindered" access throughout Darfur.
Ladsous also told the council that as of Tuesday, 935 visa applications for UNAMID peacekeepers and staff were being held up. He said this "remains of concern".
Darfur rebel groups rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government in 2003 and the UN estimates that at least 300,000 people have died because of the conflict since then. The government says the figure is only 10,000.
Government forces in December killed Khalil Ibrahim, head of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the most heavily armed rebel group.
Ladsous said this had badly hit chances of talks between JEM, which has joined an alliance vowing to overthrow President Omar al-Bashir, and the government.
The JEM and other members of the new Sudanese Revolutionary Front -- including factions of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) of Darfur -- refused to sign a Darfur peace initiative in July that Qatar brokered with UN assistance.
Ladsous said that the JEM was in the process of choosing a new leader.
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