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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
Shetty defends Richard Gere kiss
Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty
Photographs of the embrace made the front pages in India
Actress Shilpa Shetty has defended Richard Gere after the Hollywood actor sparked protests by kissing her at an Aids awareness rally in New Delhi.

Public displays of affection are still largely taboo in India, and protestors in Mumbai (Bombay) set fire to effigies of Gere following the incident.

"What he did was very sweet. It was all in good humour," said Shetty.

"He especially told me to tell the media that he didn't want to hurt any Indian sensibilities."

'Taken aback'

Footage of the kiss was shown repeatedly on Indian TV, while Indian newspapers carried the picture on their front pages.

Shetty said the actor had "only tried to entertain the people".

"Shall We Dance was one of Richard's films and he struck this pose in the movie," the actress and Celebrity Big Brother contestant explained.

"I was unaware he was going to do it, so I was taken aback."

Shetty said Gere had apologised "profusely" to her, and added there was no need for the "adverse reaction" the embrace had provoked in some Indian cities.

"I am happy that this has happened because at least now people will talk about the issue of Aids and HIV," she said.

Actress Shilpa Shetty defends Richard Gere

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