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U.N. puts Darfur dead at 70,000

From CNN's Lauren Rivera

A rebel from the Sudan Liberation Army patrols Darfur.
Crisis in Sudan
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- More than 70,000 people have died so far in the Darfur region of Sudan, according to the United Nations under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland.

A U.N. study conducted in June, July and August estimated 10,000 people were dying each month in Darfur.

The cumulative number of deaths since the conflict in Darfur began in early 2003 has been difficult for the United Nations to estimate, Egeland said.

He said the United Nations has documented deaths only since April, when its officials gained full access to the Darfur region.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, speaking at his year-end news conference on Tuesday, described the situation in Darfur as "deteriorating" and called on the U.N. Security Council to take action.

"Ultimately, the Security Council must assume its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security," he said.

The Security Council has considered but not imposed targeted sanctions on Sudanese government officials. One U.N. official also said "no-fly zones" over Darfur are needed to stop the attacks on civilians.

Several hours after Annan spoke, the Security Council said it is "actively monitoring" the situation and considering its options.

The conflict in the western Sudan region erupted after minority tribe rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government in early 2003. That prompted a military campaign by the government and its allied militia, the Janjaweed.

There have been repeated violations of a cease-fire agreement signed in April this year.

On Tuesday, the Khartoum government and the rebels suspended faltering peace talks in Nigeria. The African Union urged both sides to stop fighting to allow negotiations to resume in January.

The breakdown of the talks came as British aid agency Save the Children announced it was pulling all 350 of its staff out of Darfur after the killing of four of its staff, Reuters reported.

The United Nations has described Darfur as the world's worst current humanitarian crisis.

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