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US ends boycott of India's Modi

US ambassador holds talks with BJP's prime ministerial candidate, after shunning him over anti-Muslim riots.

Last updated: 13 Feb 2014 08:14
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US ambassador to India Nancy Powell (L) received a souvenir from India's BJP candidate, Modi [Reuters]

The United States has ended a decade-long boycott of Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi over deadly religious riots, as a top diplomat held talks with the man tipped to be the next prime minister.

Nancy Powell, the US ambassador to India, shook hands on Thursday with Modi at his official residence in the western state of Gujarat where he is the chief minister, before entering closed-door talks.

Powell and her entourage arrived in four official cars at the residence in the state capital Gandhinagar, but she did not speak to waiting reporters.

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Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is accused by rights groups of turning a blind eye to riots that killed up to 2,000 people in Guarajat in 2002. Most of the victims were Muslims.

The United States in 2005 revoked a visa for Modi under a domestic law that bars entry by any foreign official seen as responsible for "severe violations of religious freedom".

Modi has denied any wrongdoing over the 2002 violence and investigations have cleared him of personal blame, although one of his former ministers was jailed for life for instigating the killing of 97 Muslims.

Powell's meeting with Modi puts the US in line with European nations and Australia, which have already restored ties with him.

Opinion polls show Modi and his party are on course to topple the ruling Congress party at general elections expected in May.

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