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Sudan insists that Bashir’s visa request to US remains pending despite missing meetings

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September 26, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti criticized the United States for dragging its feet on approving the visa request of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings this week.

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Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir speaks during a press conference in Khartoum late on September 22, 2013 (ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)

Karti, who is currently in New York, said that Bashir now missed the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) that took place on the sidelines of the UNGA meetings.

The Sudanese foreign ministry said in a statement carried by state media today that reports on Bashir cancelling his US trip are "false". It criticized the delay in the visa approval process by the US despite the 1947 UN headquarters agreement saying it is a breach of its obligations.

Bashir was placed on the speakers list for the UNGA session on Thursday but on Wednesday the UN said that the Sudanese leader will not be coming.

"Protocol has now confirmed that Sudan has cancelled President Bashir’s appearance at the General Assembly," a UN spokesman, Jerome Bernard, told Agence France Presse (AFP) yesterday.

The spokesman said that Karti would now address the assembly on Friday.

“We understand he is not coming and we’re glad he’s not coming,” Christian Wenaweser, the U.N. ambassador of Liechtenstein and former president of the Assembly of ICC States Parties told the Washington Post.

“We think it would have been bad for the United Nations to host someone who has been issued and international arrest warrant" Wenaweser added.

The Washington Post said the cancellation followed several days of diplomatic efforts by the US to convince Bashir not to come to the United States, warning that it could not guarantee he would not be subject to arrest, according to UN based diplomats.

It is not clear if Bashir will end up receiving the visa despite this year’s UNGA session coming to a close.

For the first time since the International Criminal Court (ICC) charged him with war crimes and genocide four years ago in connection with Darfur conflict, Bashir said he wishes to attend the UNGA meeting this year.

The US swiftly decried Bashir’s visa application but declined to say whether it will reject it. Under the UN headquarters agreement, the US is obligated to promptly issue visas for officials seeking to participate in UN events except under very limited circumstances related to national security.

But the US State department said that the ICC arrest warrant will be considered when assessing Bashir’s visa request.

The US is not a member of the ICC and as such has no legal obligation to execute the warrants and under the UN headquarters agreement is required to promptly grant visas to world officials seeking to participate in events at the world body.

The ICC Pre-Trial chamber, in a decision issued last week, said it had ‘‘… invited the competent US authorities to arrest Omar Al Bashir and surrender him to the Court, in the event he enters their territory.’’

But Bashir at a press conference on Sunday night challenged the US to deny him entry or arrest him adding that his flight and lodging plans for New York have already been made.

"Those people [US government] we put them in a corner….We [can] go to the US and no one can do anything to us because there is no law in America that affords US authorities the right to take any action against me because it is not a member of the Rome Statute. "Attending the [UN] General Assembly [meeting] is our right" the Sudanese president told reporters.

Since the arrest warrants. Bashir was forced to cancel appearances in several regional and international events. In some cases his plane was denied passage through airspace of Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan.

Last July, Bashir’s reportedly “fled” Nigeria where he was scheduled to take part in a regional summit over a case filed in a local court by the Nigeria Coalition on the International Criminal Court (NCICC) to compel the government to arrest him.

(ST)

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