Kerry avoids criticizing crackdown in talks with Sudanese minister

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Monday met with his Sudanese counterpart Ali Karti but failed to repeat strong U.S. criticism of a deadly crackdown on protestors.

Thousands have taken to the streets to protest a more than 60 percent jump in petrol and diesel prices that took effect on September 23 -- the worst urban unrest in the history of President Omar al-Bashir’s 24-year reign.

Authorities say 34 people have died in the protests. But activists and international human rights groups said at least 50 people were gunned down, most of them in the greater Khartoum area.

The real toll was difficult to determine but “could be as much as 200,” a foreign diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity

On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki blasted which she called a “brutal crackdown” by Khartoum on the protestors, adding it was “heavy-handed and disproportionate.”

But in Kerry’s meeting with Karti at the State Department on Monday, the crackdown was “not a topic,” Psaki said.

The two men “discussed the importance of peace between Sudan and South Sudan and the need to end the conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan,” she said, as well as the need to allow humanitarian access to protect civilians.

“This was not a long meeting; they discussed a range of issues,” she added.

Bashir’s request for a U.S. visa to be able to attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York was also raised, Psaki said without giving further details.

Citing confidentiality, she refused to confirm whether the U.S. had denied or granted a visa to Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur.

Karti on Friday addressed the assembly and accused the United States of denying Bashir the visa, which he said breached its obligations as the host of the United Nations.

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.”

Bashir did not appear at the U.N. podium, with Karti taking his place, but it remained unclear whether he had chosen not to travel or been refused a U.S. visa.

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