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US keeps door shut

New Delhi, March 21: The US today declined to review its decision not to permit Narendra Modi to travel to the country while stressing the values it shared with India, one being freedom of religion.

Not only that, it made it clear that permission had been denied because of Modi's role in the Gujarat riots.

The Manmohan Singh government, which had stood behind the Gujarat chief minister despite political differences and requested the US for a review, expressed regret. It said the decision meant the US 'disregards' Modi's position as a democratically elected leader.

David Mulford, the US ambassador to India, said: 'The ministry of external affairs requested that the department of state review the decision to revoke his tourist/business visa. Upon review, the state department re-affirmed the original decision.'

Washington urged Delhi not to allow the incident to stand in the way of growing Indo-US ties.

Mulford said: 'The US and India' share common values on the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and representative government. It is our goal to build on those common values.'

Modi was to have travelled to the US this week.

Responding to the US decision, external affairs ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said: 'While it is the sovereign right of a country to grant or deny visas, the government does not find this decision by the US in keeping with the objectives that India and United States share as democratic countries.'

While revoking Modi's tourist/business visa, the US had cited a rule under which permission can be denied on grounds of infringement on religious freedom.

On that occasion, the authorities had not referred to the riots of 2002. While rejecting the request for a review today, Mulford did that. 'This decision' is based on the fact that, as head of the state government in Gujarat between February 2002 and May 2002, he (Modi) was responsible for the performance of state institutions.'

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