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Last Updated: Friday, 25 March, 2005, 12:54 GMT
Gujarat leader calls off UK visit
Narendra Modi
Mr Modi has been criticised over his handling of the 2002 riots
The controversial, right-wing Indian politician Narendra Modi has put off a visit to UK because of security concerns, officials say.

Mr Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat state, was due to visit UK over the weekend to attend a raft of functions, including one in London on Saturday.

Last week, Washington banned Mr Modi from entry into the US for alleged violation of religious freedom.

Mr Modi has been criticised for his handling of Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002.

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

But independent groups have placed the numbers of those killed far higher at nearly 2,000.

'Inflame passions'

The office of the prime minister said on Friday Mr Modi had telephoned to say he was postponing his trip following advice received from Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

Gujarat riots
Official figures say more than 1,000 died in the Gujarat riots

The prime minister's spokesman, Sanjaya Baru, said: "His security cover was not assured and there were apprehensions he might face demonstrations."

Reports said human rights activists in the UK had planned to protest when Mr Modi visited the country.

A spokesman for two Asian rights groups in the UK told India's The Hindu newspaper they were trying to obtain an arrest warrant on Mr Modi ahead of the planned meeting.

Other organisations had asked the British government to revoke Mr Modi's visa, saying his visit would "inflame" passions, the newspaper reported.

Mr Modi visited the UK in 2003 and faced some protests by human rights organisations at the time.

Correspondents say there were fears of bigger demonstrations against the Gujarat chief minister this time - especially after he had been refused entry into the US.

London's Metropolitan Police said it never discussed security arrangements for individuals but cover would be provided as deemed appropriate for the person concerned and the circumstances of his or her visit.

Videophone

The US revoked Mr Modi's business/tourist visa and refused him a diplomatic visa last week.

Officials said the decision was based on US law, which made any foreign government official "responsible for severe violations of religious freedom" ineligible for a visa.

The move was strongly criticised by India's government and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, to which Mr Modi belongs.

Mr Modi had planned to speak at several events organised by the Indian community in the US.

He did address a community event in New York's Madison Square Garden via videophone from India.


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