India turns down Annan’s request to visit tsunami-battered areas in south

Agence France Presse

New Delhi, January 11

India has rejected a request by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to visit tsunami-hit areas of the country, fearful such a trip would interfere with relief efforts, a newspaper said today.

India, which has insisted it is capable of dealing with the immediate task of relief without international help, has had no stream of high-profile visitors unlike other nations affected by the December 26 catastrophe. “India politely turned down a request last week from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to visit Tamil Nadu,” The Indian Express said. Annan wanted to see India’s relief work in southern Tamil Nadu state which has had the most number of deaths with 7,960 fatalities out of the country’s 10,136 total, the newspaper said. Some 5,630 people are still missing and feared dead, mainly in India’s far-flung Andaman and Nicobar islands.

But the government, which has been discouraging its own ministers from travelling to tsunami-affected areas “was in no mood to have a high-profile international visitor like Kofi Annan adding to the burden of the local administration,” The Indian Express said. There was no comment immediately available from the United Nations or the Indian government on the report.