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Kerry voices U.S. dismay at anti-gay law to Uganda's Museveni

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks before opening the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission Plenary Session with Georgia's Pr
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks before opening the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission Plenary Session with Georgia's Pr

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni this week to convey U.S. unhappiness at an anti-gay law in Uganda and tell him it will complicate ties between the two countries, the State Department said on Friday.

The new law strengthened existing punishments for anyone caught having gay sex, imposing jail terms of up to life for "aggravated homosexuality" - including sex with a minor or while HIV-positive. It criminalized lesbianism for the first time and made it a crime to help individuals engage in homosexual acts.

"Secretary Kerry expressed the United States' deep disappointment in the Ugandan government's decision to enact the anti-homosexuality bill," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said of the call, which took place on Thursday.

"The secretary noted that the decision complicates the U.S. relationship with Uganda," the spokeswoman added in her written statement, although she said that Kerry did not threaten any specific sanction by the United States in response.

Homosexuality is a taboo in most African nations and illegal in 37, including Uganda, where it has been a crime since British colonial rule. However, such laws are seldom enforced.

On Wednesday, Kerry described the new law as "atrocious" and Museveni's signing it as "flat-out morally wrong." He also likened it to anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany and racial discrimination in South Africa during the apartheid era.

The United States gave more than $485 million in aid to Uganda in the year ended on September 30. The bulk of the funding went to health programs and security, including military training.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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