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UN Secretary General, staff stopped at airport

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon received a rude welcome at the Indira Gandhi International Airport last Friday during his short visit to the capital, reports Sidhartha Roy.

delhi Updated: Nov 05, 2008 01:39 IST
Sidhartha Roy

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon received a rude welcome at the Indira Gandhi International Airport last Friday during his short visit to the capital.

Thanks to a security goof-up, Ki-Moon was stopped for half-an-hour before he could board a special UN aircraft to Nepal.

Ki-Moon arrived in New Delhi on October 30 and had to leave for Kathmandu, Nepal, the next day at 4 p.m. Everything went on smoothly as he left the ceremonial lounge to board a special UN flight. Trouble began when the baggage of his four personal security officials were being screened through the in-line baggage checking system.

Officials of the airport operator Delhi International Airport Ltd. (DIAL) who man the system objected to the firearms being carried in the bags.

While visiting dignitaries and delegates are exempted from pre-embarkation checks and their security personnel are allowed to carry firearms, Ki-Moon and his staff were only allowed to leave after they filled up special forms, sources said.

The whole fiasco lasted for close to half-an-hour and left officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) accompanying Ki-Moon red-faced.

“It was a huge embarrassment for all the officials. Despite requests that he is a dignitary of very high stature, they still had to go through all the formalities,” said an airport source.

In a letter dated October 23, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times, the protocol division of the Ministry of External Affairs had informed DIAL, Central Industrial Security Force, Customs, Immigration and Delhi Police about the visit of the UN Secretary General.

All the authorities were informed about the privileges that are extended to visiting dignitaries and were also asked to extend due courtesies. The letter specifically mentions that the security staff on duty should be properly instructed about the VIP movement.

A DIAL spokesman said the security staff at the in-line baggage screening system detected a baggage containing ammunition in the X-ray and according to standard procedures, wanted to do physical verification of the baggage with the passenger.

“At that point of time the protocol officials arrived and informed the security that the passenger was a part of the delegation of UN Secretary General and that he had due authorization to carry weapons or ammunition on board the chartered flight,” he said.

Though reliable sources said the officials had to fill up forms while Ki-Moon and the delegation waited, DIAL said the baggage was taken to the aircraft immediately.

“This confusion arose because the baggage was sent through the in-line baggage screening system instead of the existing procedure of declaring it and sending it through the stand alone x-ray machine in the Departure Hall,” the spokesman said.

The MEA spokesman couldn’t be contacted over the phone despite repeated attempts.