President Obama cancels Taj visit

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US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will miss out on seeing the Taj during their three-day India sojourn as their visit to Agra has been cancelled, the authorities said Saturday.

Agra District Magistrate Pankaj Kumar confirmed to reporters the cancellation of Obama’s visit to Agra.

A government spokesman told IANS in Lucknow that the presidential visit to Agra “for all practical purposes was over”.

Obama arrives in India Sunday. He is the first US president to visit India twice during his tenure and the first to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.

Obama was to fly to Agra on the last day of his visit Tuesday. Due to the weather, the alternative was to take the Yamuna Expressway, said official sources.

An official said that the advance teams of the US Secret Service and other officials have returned from Agra.

Sources told IANS that the union government had earlier told the state officials that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav or anyone else was not required to receive the Obama couple in the Taj city as it was not an official programme.

Yadav and his team had in fact, an aide conceded, prepared for the high-profile visit and were okay with even a “brief” engagement between the US president and the UP chief minister.

This was not to be as neither the BJP-led government was keen on this nor the security agencies who were not comfortable with the US president flying to Agra.

“The US first lady and the president both were keen to visit Taj…specially since they were unable to do so in 2010, but the plan has now been cancelled,” an official privy to the visit confirmed.

Due to the seasonal fog, the Secret Service was not keen to take the two-hour long Yamuna Expressway route from New Delhi to Agra and the “general security brief about UP was a thumbs down”, an official added.

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