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Sudan President Blocked from Saudi Air Space

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is seen walking out of a hotel in Abuja, Nigeria, in this July 14, 2013, file photo.
Sudan says Saudi Arabia blocked the plane of President Omar al-Bashir from entering its airspace Sunday as he tried to fly to Iran.

Sudan's state news agency reports that Bashir's plane was forced to turn around in mid-air and go back to Khartoum after Saudi aviation officials denied it permission to cross over Saudi territory.

The report says Bashir, flying in a Saudi-chartered plane, was headed to Tehran to attend the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and that his plane had received advance permission to fly over Saudi Arabia.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi officials, and no explanation why they would prevent Bashir from crossing over the country.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have a tense relationship stemming in part from Iran's nuclear program.

Human rights activists have pressured countries not to admit Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.

Last month, the Sudanese leader left Nigeria's capital less than 24 hours after he arrived for an African Union summit, after activists pressured the government to arrest him.

Saudi Arabia is not a signatory to the statute that established the ICC.