UN: 300,000 dead in Darfur since start of conflict; Sudan denies count

A Sudanese presidential aide challenged a new U.N. assessment that as many as 300,000 people have died in the 5-year-old Darfur conflict, saying Thursday the figures were unfounded and intended to put political pressure on the government. John Holmes, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, gave a grim report on Darfur to the Security Council this week, estimating as many as 300,000 persons have been killed up from the previous U.N. estimate of more than 200,000. He said suffering in the western Sudanese region is worsening, there is no prospect of a political settlement and food rations for the needy are about to be cut in half.