Uganda’s president has said gay people should not be killed or persecuted as the country’s parliament runs out of time to pass the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill for this year.

Speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga recently said the bill would be passed as a “Christmas gift” to its supporters.

However, parliament adjourned at the start of the weekend without voting on it.

The bill specifies long jail sentences for those convicted of homosexual acts and in certain cases has suggested the death penalty.

In his latest comments at the swearing in of a new head of the Anglican Church of Uganda, the country’s New Vision newspaper reports that President Yoweri Museveni was careful to avoid condemning or supporting the bill.

The president said: “If there are some homosexuals, we shall not kill or persecute them but there should be no promotion of homosexuality.

“We cannot accept promotion of homosexuality as if it is a good thing.”

Mr Museveni said he knew of traditional kings and chiefs who took part in same-sex activity, but that they did so in secret and did not promote it.

He told the US ambassador to Kampala that all forms of sex were kept private in Africa, unlike in Western societies.

Ministers have warned MPs that passing the bill would have implications for foreign relations.

Last week, dozens of people gathered outside the Ugandan High Commission in central London to demonstrate against the bill.