updated 3/18/2005 8:57:04 AM ET 2005-03-18T13:57:04

The U.S. Embassy on Friday denied a visa to the Hindu nationalist chief minister of India’s western Gujarat state, citing his role in 2002 religious riots that killed hundreds of Muslims. The chief minister called the decision an insult to India.

Narendra Modi had been scheduled to address a gathering of motel owners in New York this weekend. He had also planned to meet with overseas Indians in Florida and in New Jersey.

An Embassy spokesman who asked that his name be withheld said Modi’s request for a diplomatic visa was denied and his existing tourist/business visa was revoked.

The spokesman said a U.S. law makes any foreign government official responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom” ineligible for a visa.

Modi called the U.S. decision “an insult to India and its constitution.”

“The United States can’t impose its laws on other countries. In the same way, India should deny visas to U.S. officials as a protest against Washington’s policies in Iraq,” Modi said.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party said India should lodge a protest with the United States.

External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh said India will take up the visa issue with the U. S. government, Press Trust of India news agency said.

The riots were sparked by an attack on a train car in which 60 Hindus returning from a religious pilgrimage were burned to death. Muslim mobs were blamed for the fire and 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims.

Human rights groups accused Modi’s state government of doing little to stop the violence, and the Supreme Court criticized its lenient handling of Hindus accused of slaughtering Muslims.

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