US denied Bashir visa, Sudan FM says

Sudan's foreign minister accused the United States Friday of denying a visa to President Omar al-Bashir, wanted on war crimes charges, barring him from taking part in a UN summit.

"It is with deep regret that I inform you of the refusal of the authorities of the United States, the host government, to give an entry visa to President Bashir and his delegation," Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti told the UN General Assembly.

He slammed the United States for what he called "a serious violation of the principles and purposes set forth in the Charter of the United Nations."

The International Criminal Court had urged the United States to arrest Bashir if he set foot in New York to attend the annual assembly.

Bashir is wanted by the court in The Hague on 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Sudan's Darfur conflict.

Under international accords, the United States, as the host country of the United Nations, must grant visas to heads of state traveling to the US on UN business.

The State Department, however, said the visa application had not been refused.

"No change - visa application is still processing," a US official told AFP.

But Karti accused the US administration of violating the "headquarters agreement of the United Nations signed in December 1946."

"This unjustified and unacceptable action is a very serious precedent in the history of the United Nations," Karti said, calling on UN chief Ban Ki-moon to "protect the rights" of all member countries.

"President Bashir is known throughout Africa, he is known by all those who hold peace dear," Karti said.

"He is known by everybody for what he has done, for putting an end to a bloodthirsty war inherited from the days of colonialism -- ie: civil war."

Karti's address came on the fifth consecutive day of protests in Khartoum against fuel price hikes that have seen scores of demonstrators shot dead by government forces.

Sudan's interior ministry announced Friday that 600 people had been arrested for taking part in the anti-government protests.

The United States has blasted the "brutal crackdown" against protesters, calling it "heavy-handed" and "disproportionate."