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Wanted Sudan leader misses UN date

Sudan has cancelled its president's appearance at the annual United Nations meeting of world leaders this week, a UN spokesman said today.

Omar al-Bashir would have been the first head of state to address the General Assembly while facing international war crimes and genocide charges.

The United States had made it clear it did not want al-Bashir to show up in New York, and human rights groups had warned they would seek legal action against him if he arrived.

Sudan's decision came as a landmark conviction was upheld today for former Liberian president Charles Taylor, the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since the Second World War.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, made a pointed comment on Twitter: "Historic Charles Taylor judgment today: War crimes and crimes against humanity will not go unpunished. cc £OmarAlBashir."

Al-Bashir faces two International Criminal Court indictments for crimes linked to the conflict in the western Darfur region of Sudan, where an estimated 300,000 people have died since 2003.

He had been scheduled to speak today at the UN, but Martin Nesirky, spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said in an email that Sudan had cancelled the appearance.

But Sudan's official news agency, Suna, cited the country's foreign affairs ministry as saying that news reports of the cancellation were false. The ministry said al-Bashir's visa application was still at the US Embassy in Khartoum, and it called on the US to approve the visa, the Suna report said.

AP

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