updated 11/22/2005 4:01:51 PM ET 2005-11-22T21:01:51

A top United Nations envoy blamed a Darfur rebel group for holding up a crucial round of negotiations, warning on Tuesday that it would lose international sympathy if it obstructs peace efforts.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's representative to Sudan, Jan Pronk, said the negotiating round that had been due to start Monday will be held Nov. 28, and warned that if the Sudan Liberation Army fails to attend, it can "forget about any political or moral support" from the international community.

He said the Sudanese government and the other main rebel group in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement, have agreed to attend the talks, due to be held in Abuja, Nigeria.

But the SLA has yet to overcome internal splits to join the round, he said.

Annan warned Monday that Darfur faces an increasing threat of anarchy unless the government and rebels conclude a peace agreement by the end of the year.

In his monthly report to the U.N. Security Council, Annan said "a dangerous increase" in violence in Darfur that began in September, and continued in October, is seriously affecting the delivery of humanitarian aid, and has claimed the lives of civilians and five members of the 6,700-strong African Union peacekeeping force.

The Darfur conflict began in February 2003 when rebel groups took up arms against the government, accusing it of neglect and repression of Sudanese of African origin.

The government is accused of supporting a counterinsurgency led by an Arab militia known as the Janjaweed, which has been blamed for widespread killing, rape and arson.

The Sudanese government denies backing the Janjaweed.

The United Nations estimates that 180,000 people have died in the conflict, mainly through famine and disease.

Several million more have either fled into neighboring Chad or inside Sudan.

The peace talks, entering their seventh round, have been hampered by a leadership fight and factional split within the SLA, the biggest Darfur rebel group.

Earlier this month, one SLA leader, Minni Minnawi, organized a congress in which he was elected president, removing Abdel Wahid Nur as chairman.

Since then, both have claimed leadership.

On Saturday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Jendayi E. Frazer, met both leaders in al-Fasher, the capital of South Darfur, to press for a unified position ahead of the talks. But the dispute remains unresolved.

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