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Last Updated: Monday, 21 March, 2005, 13:04 GMT
US stands by India visa decision
BJP activists protest against the US
The decision has angered Mr Modi's supporters
The United States has reaffirmed a decision to refuse the controversial Indian politician, Narendra Modi, permission to enter the country.

India had pressed Washington to reconsider its decision to cancel Mr Modi's visa on the grounds that he had allegedly violated religious freedom.

The move has been strongly criticised by India's government and opposition.

Mr Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat state, has been criticised for his handling of Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002.

'Violations of religious freedom'

On Monday, US ambassador to India David Mulford said the decision to deny Mr Modi entry into America was based on US law, which made any foreign government official "responsible for severe violations of religious freedom" ineligible for a visa.

In a statement, Mr Mulford said that, as head of the Gujarat government at the time of the riots, Mr Modi was responsible for the performance of state institutions at the time.

India] does not find this decision by the United State in keeping with the objectives that India and United States share as democratic countries,
Indian spokesman

The ambassador quoted US state department reports on the Gujarat violence which cited India's National Human Rights Commission in concluding that during the riots there was "a comprehensive failure on the part of the state government to control the persistent violation of rights of life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the people of the state".

India was swift to criticise Mr Mulford's remarks and said the US position was based on "selective judgement".

"While it is the sovereign right of a country to grant or deny visas, [India] does not find this decision by the United States in keeping with the objectives that India and United States share as democratic countries," a foreign ministry statement said.

Diplomatic row

Last Friday the US revoked Mr Modi's 'tourist/business' visa and also turned down Mr Modi's request for a diplomatic visa.

The move was condemned by the Indian government as well as the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to which Mr Modi belongs.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Mr Modi has been criticised over his handling of the 2002 riots
An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said the move displayed a "lack of courtesy and sensitivity towards a constitutionally-elected chief minister".

However, the largest US Muslim civil liberties group welcomed the US decision.

Last week, two US congressmen introduced a resolution in the US House of Representatives criticising Mr Modi's conduct during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Congressmen John Conyers and Joe Pitts accused Mr Modi of carrying out religious persecution against Muslims, Christians and indigenous tribals.

The Gujarat chief minister was due to speak at several events organised by the Indian community in the US.

On Sunday he addressed a community event in New York's Madison Square Garden via videophone.

Many speakers at the event criticised the move to deny him entry into the United States.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in religious riots in Gujarat in 2002.

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