KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) – Sudan disputed a U.N. report saying 70,000 people have died since March in refugee camps in western Darfur province, with a government minister insisting Saturday that the number couldn’t be more than 7,000.

On Friday, the World Health Organization estimated that at least 70,000 people had died in the camps, most because of poor conditions. The number does not include those killed in fighting, including militia and government attacks on villages or on fleeing refugees.

Mohammed Yusuf Ibrahim, state minister at the ministry of humanitarian affairs, disputed the estimate.

“This report is totally wrong and not correct at all,” he told The Associated Press.

He said the real number was less than 10 percent that estimated by the U.N. health agency. He cited Sudanese government reports.

“The reports we have here speak of the situation for the last 32 weeks and nowhere could we see what they were talking about,” he said. He would not elaborate on the government reports or give more specific numbers.

Dr. David Nabarro, WHO’s head of crisis operations, said Friday that refugees will continue to die unless countries provide more money to help them.

“We are running on a threadbare, hand-to-mouth existence, and if the plight of these people in Darfur is as important to the international community as it seems to be, then we would have expected more long-term support,” he said.

He said the United Nations has only received half of the $300 million that it needs to do its work.

Sudan’s government is accused of using Arab militias to put down a 19-month rebellion by non-Arab African groups in Darfur. The government denies supporting the militias and has called the reported death tolls exaggerated.

The only death toll it has provided came last month, when it said around 200 of its policemen were killed in the fighting.

Meanwhile, Rwanda said it would delay sending about 300 peacekeeping troops to Darfur by about a week because preparations have not been made to house the soldiers.

The 300 Rwandan troops had been scheduled to arrive on Sunday, but will probably leave next weekend, Foreign Minister Charles Muligande told The Associated Press.

Altogether, Rwanda is expected to send about 1,000 fresh troops to Darfur, in addition to more than 150 soldiers deployed there in August, said Lt. Gen. Charles Kayonga, the army chief.

The fresh troops will make up a battalion of a 4,500-soldier contingent to be deployed in Darfur by the African Union by the end of next month.

Nigeria is sending another of the force’s five battalions by Oct. 30, the country said Friday. There was no word on which other African countries would provide troops for the remaining three battalions, which are expected to be on the ground in Sudan by the end of November.

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