The United States condemned — without rejecting — Monday a visa request from Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, to attend the UN General Assembly.
"We can confirm that we have received a visa application for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan to attend events related to the opening of the UN General Assembly" at the end of September, said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
"We condemn any potential effort by President Bashir to travel to New York, given that he stands accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court," she added.
Harf did not specify whether the Sudanese president's visa request had been rejected or whether he would be arrested if he set foot on US soil en route to the UN headquarters, considered extra-national territory.
But, she said, "before presenting himself to UN headquarters, President Bashir should present himself to the ICC in The Hague to answer for the crimes of which he's been accused."
Washington and Khartoum have tense diplomatic relations.
The Hague-based International Criminal Court in 2009 and 2010 issued two warrants against Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.
At the beginning of August, Saudi Arabia refused permission for a plane carrying the Sudanese president to cross its airspace for the swearing in of Iran's president.
And in July, the ICC unsuccessfully demanded Nigeria immediately arrest Bashir, who visited to attend an African Union summit.
Nations that have signed on to the world's only permanent court for war crimes and crimes against humanity have a legal obligation to arrest any indicted suspect found within their territory.
However, several African ICC members have allowed visits, and some African Union members and officials have criticized the Bashir indictments, and the AU has passed a resolution calling on members not to cooperate with the warrants.