US consul-general apologises to Chavan, Bhujbal

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 05, 2010 11:30 hrs

Mumbai, Nov 5 (IANS) A mild threat of Maharashtra's top politicians to boycott US President Barack Obama's functions on being asked to produce identification papers forced the US government to apologise Friday.

'I have visited Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and personally apologised. It was just a clerical error,' US Consul-General in Mumbai Paul A. Folmsbee said.

The controversy erupted earlier this week after the US consulate in Mumbai sought identification papers from Maharashtra's top dignitaries in order to attend various events to be graced by President Obama over the next couple of days.

Feeling slighted by the demand for details like birth date, nationality, passport number, PAN card, etc, the state's leaders hinted that they may not be in a position to attend the president's functions, a Mantralaya official said.

'However, now that the US authorities have apologised, the matter has been resolved,' the official told IANS here Friday.

The state officials were taken aback by the US consulate's conditions that the dignitaries like the chief minister and his deputy, and others would have to produce their identity cards.

'President Barack Obama will make a brief statement to commemorate the tragic attacks on November 26, 2008, respect the victims. Kindly attend the event. For security reasons, bring this letter, along with a photo identify card, RSVP to protocol advisor,' said the invitation letter sent out on behalf of Folmsbee.

The consulate also asked Chavan and the other prominent invitees from the state government to fill up a form with other details and submit it to the consulate by Nov 2.

However, the diplomatic gaffe has been treated as a 'clerical error' and it is expected that all the state VVIPs would rub shoulders with the visiting US President Saturday and Sunday.