GENEVA (AP) — U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has called on countries to abolish laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians.

The U.N. Secretary-General says cultural concerns cannot justify discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation.

Dozens of countries around the world, particularly in Africa and Asia, prohibit same-sex relations.

Ban's comments were part of a message read out on his behalf Friday at a U.N. human rights meeting in Geneva.

Observers said they were unusually strong words on the subject from the head of the global body.