UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Sudan used its speech at the United Nations’ annual gathering of world leaders to protest what it said was a U.S. decision to deny a visa to the country’s president, who faces war crimes charges.
Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Ahmed Karti called the alleged visa denial an “unjustified and unacceptable action” that sets a “very serious precedent in the history of the United Nations.”
President Omar al-Bashir would have been the first head of state to address the world body while facing international war crimes and genocide charges. The charges are linked to the conflict in the Darfur region, where about 300,000 people have died since 2003.
The United States had made it clear it did not want al-Bashir in New York.
A U.S. official on Friday night said the visa application was still pending. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because visa records are confidential.
The United States has never banned a visiting head of state who wants to speak to the United Nations. Under a U.S. treaty with the United Nations dating to 1947, Washington is obligated to issue the visa as the world body’s host country.
Human rights groups had warned they would seek legal action against al-Bashir if he arrived in New York.
In Khartoum on Friday, thousands of protesters demanded the regime’s ouster, angry over rising fuel prices. Security forces fired bullets and tear gas at the protesters who took to the streets despite a fierce crackdown that rights groups say has killed dozens of people this week.
Al-Bashir’s regime is trying to stop the public anger from turning into an Arab Spring-style uprising against his 24-year rule.
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee at the United Nations and Maggie Michael in Khartoum, Sudan, contributed.
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