'Annan not stopped from visiting TN'
The Government on Tuesday denied that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was disallowed permission to visit tsunami-hit Tamil Nadu but noted that India has advised that foreign dignitaries should avoid travel to such affected areas as it may hamper relief work.
"There is no question of refusing permission to the UN Secretary General to visit the tsunami-hit areas," Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed said, denying a media report in this regard.
He, however, said the Government of India has conveyed to its "friends" that foreign dignitaries should avoid travel to tsunami-affected areas so that local authorities remain "full engaged" with relief work.
During pre-occupation of local authorities with relief work, it would be "difficult to extend protocol and normal facilities that are extended to any foreign guest", Ahamed said.
The minister said even the central ministers have been asked to avoid visit to the affected areas to allow local authorities to carry on with relief work.
Asked why Annan did not visit India if he was in the region and had gone to Sri Lanka also, Ahamed said, "He (Annan) may have had his own programme."