KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan's armed forces and a rebel group clashed outside a major city in the troubled western Darfur region, scene of an almost decade-long insurgency, state news agency SUNA said on Sunday.

Conflict has raged in the remote territory since mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against government forces there in 2003, complaining Khartoum had neglected the vast, arid region.

Despite the presence of the world's largest peacekeeping mission, fighting between Sudan's army and rebels has continued, alongside banditry and tribal clashes.

Army spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid said army troops clashed with forces of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction led by Minni Minnawi, 25 km (15 miles) outside al-Fasher on Saturday, capital of North Darfur, SUNA reported.

The army had attacked the SLA forces which were preparing to shell al-Fasher, SUNA said, adding that the surviving rebels had fled, leaving behind their ammunition.

There was no immediate comment from the rebels.

Quoting a military source, Sudan's biggest newspaper al-Intibaha had earlier reported that rebels had shelled the outskirts of al-Fasher, frightening residents. Sawarmi denied the report.

The United Nations has said that as many as 300,000 people may have died in the Darfur fighting, where the Sudanese government mobilized troops and mostly Arab militia. The government has put the death toll at about 10,000.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other officials on charges of war crimes in Darfur. They deny the accusations.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Ulf Laessing, editing by Rosalind Russell)