Page last updated at 12:58 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Uganda President Museveni wary of anti-gay bill

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni in September 2009
President Yoweri Museveni urged caution on his party

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has distanced himself from a bill proposing execution for some gay people.

He stressed that the MP who proposed the bill, who is a member of the ruling party, did so as an individual and was not following government policy.

Mr Museveni, who admitted coming under international pressure, said the bill was now a "foreign policy issue" and would be discussed by the cabinet.

The proposals have caused a storm of criticism across the world.

Sweden has threatened to cut aid and other countries have contacted Mr Museveni directly to put their objections.

High-level contacts

The BBC's Joshua Mmali, in the capital Kampala, says the president has been silent on the controversy since the bill was proposed in October.

But in his first public comments on the issue, Mr Museveni told a meeting of ruling party members their handling of the bill "must take into account our foreign policy interests".

Mrs Clinton rang me. What was she talking about? Gays
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

"The prime minister of Canada came to see me and what was he talking about? Gays," he said.

"[UK] Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to see me and what was he talking about? Gays.

"Mrs Clinton [the US secretary of state] rang me. What was she talking about? Gays."

He said the cabinet would be talking to David Bahati about his bill and would thrash out the government's position on it.

Homosexual acts are already punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Uganda.

Mr Bahati's private member's bill, which had been expected to gain wide support in the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), would raise that penalty to life in prison.

It also proposes the death penalty for a new offence of "aggravated homosexuality" - defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive or a "serial offender".

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