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Report: Up to 70,000 Sudanese dead

Crisis in Sudan
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• Special: Crisis in Sudan

GENEVA, Switzerland (CNN) -- The World Health Organization says that up to 70,000 refugees have died in Sudan's Darfur region since March 1, 2004 due to various causes, including diseases and malnutrition.

WHO spokesman David Nabarro said Saturday the figure does not take into account deaths from direct violence in the conflict-torn region.

Nabarro said the number of displaced people in Darfur increased to 1.8 million in September.

Sudan disputes the WHO figures, saying there could not have been more than 7,000 deaths in Darfur refugee camps.

Mohammed Yusuf Ibrahim, state minister at the ministry of humanitarian affairs, called the WHO findings "totally wrong", The Associated Press reported.

In a written report, Nabarro said the WHO's disease surveillance system showed an outbreak of dysentery-like illness and an increase in malaria cases in Darfur in late June and early July, and the situation appears to be much worse in the hard-to-reach areas.

Meanwhile, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Saturday that the United Nations is receiving fresh reports of attacks against internally displaced people in South Darfur, where tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.

The WHO report comes as five African leaders prepare to meet in the Libyan capital of Tripoli Sunday in an attempt to end the conflict.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi invited the leaders of Sudan, Nigeria, Egypt and Chad to the meeting.

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