KHARTOUM (AFP) - Heavy clashes between a major rebel group and the Sudanese army in central Darfur have killed 15 rebels and two soldiers, army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad said on Wednesday. "Clashes between the armed forces and groups affiliated with Abdulwahid (Nur) during recent military manoeuvres in Jebel Marra... killed 15 rebels, wounded many more and led to the seizure of a large number of arms and ammunition," Sawarmi said in a statement carried by the Sudanese Media Centre. Two soldiers were killed in the clashes and 10 wounded, the spokesman added. It was not immediately possible to get independent confirmation of the casualty figures. Exiled rebel leader Abdelwahid Nur heads a faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army that has so far refused to join UN-brokered peace negotiations being held in the Qatari capital Doha. His group and the SLA faction of rebel leader Minni Minnawi are thought to have been involved in heavy clashes with the army in North Darfur last month, according to the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission. Earlier on Wednesday a spokesman for SLA-Abdelwahid said the Khartoum government's recent decision to establish two new states in Darfur constituted a policy of divide and rule that would undermine the prospects for peace in Sudan's war-torn western region. "We know that Darfur is one region and we are not going to recognise their plans. The creation of two new states is going to create chaos," Ibrahim al-Hillu told AFP. Abdelwahid, who is based in Paris, flew to Nairobi on Saturday to hold "important discussions" in Kampala with Minnawi and other armed groups, according to rebel sources. Government officials in Khartoum have said the purpose of the meeting was to escalate military operations. The SLA and the Justice and Equality Movement, the most-heavily armed Darfur rebel group, have fought alongside each other in periodic clashes with the army since December, when Minnawi took up arms against the government for failing to implement a peace deal they signed in 2006. JEM resumed peace negotiations in Doha last month, but on Wednesday a spokesman said talks with the government were now on hold, because of Khartoum's unilateral decision to create two new states and hold a referendum on Darfur's future administrative status. At least 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 1.8 million people forced to flee their homes since non-Arab rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime in 2003, the United Nations says. The government puts the death toll at 10,000.