Refugees in Darfur (AP Photo)

Sudan says it has arrested 15 military and security officials accused of murder, rape and burning villages in Darfur.

They are the first military personnel to be arrested in connection with ongoing violence in the region.

Justice Minister Ali Mohamed Osman Yassin said Monday those arrested would be sent to court immediately.

There is some urgency to the move since the UN Security Council is expected to vote Wednesday on a resolution to send suspects in Sudan to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The outcome of that vote is uncertain. China which buys oil from Sudan, and Russia which sells Sudan arms, both have a Security Council veto.

Politicians in Khartoum say that they will reject any UN vote that refers war crimes suspects to The Hague court.

The international community has condemned Khartoum and the pro-government Janjaweed militia in Sudan's western Darfur region for their roles in killing thousands of villagers and forcing nearly two million from their homes.

The Khartoum government has admitted to arming some militia in early 2003, but it denies any links to the Janjaweed and calls them outlaws.

The UN estimates about 180,000 people have died in violence in the Darfur region since October 2003, two-and-a-half times the previous estimate.

At least 1.8 million people have been forced from their homes since early 2003, when rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government.