Rice demands apology from Sudan after staff 'roughed up'

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"It makes me very angry to be sitting there with their President and have this happen," she said. "They have no right to push and shove."

Ms Rice made her remarks to reporters after she and her entourage boarded an aircraft to fly from Khartoum to a refugee camp in the Darfur region.

The US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Sudanese Foreign Minister responded to Ms Rice's demand for an apology by phoning her aboard the plane to express regret for the incidents at the residence of President Omar el-Bashir.

Twice, encounters between Sudanese guards and members of Ms Rice's entourage and reporters deteriorated into shouts and shoving. As her motorcade arrived at the residence, armed guards slammed the gate shut before three vehicles could get in, including those carrying Ms Rice's interpreter and other State Department officials.

After protests, they were eventually allowed in. But guards repeatedly pushed and pulled Ms Rice's senior adviser Jim Wilkinson, and he was shoved into a wall. Elementary diplomacy "says you don't rough your guests up", Mr Wilkinson said later.

Once Ms Rice's group was inside, the guards tried to keep reporters out of a planned photo shoot. When they were finally allowed in, they were elbowed and guards tried to rip a microphone away from a US reporter.

They were ordered not to ask questions, over State Department objections. When NBC's diplomatic reporter Andrea Mitchell tried to ask Mr Bashir about his involvement with alleged atrocities, a scuffle broke out. Guards grabbed her and muscled her toward the rear of the room as State Department officials shouted at them to leave her alone. But all the reporters and a camera crew were forced out.

Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed, head of the Sudanese mission in Washington, tried to smooth over the situation, telling the reporters and aides: "This is not our policy."

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