February 24, 2006

US gives visa to top India scientist, apologizes

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The United States apologized and
granted a visa on Friday to the Indian-born president of a
world science body after he said he was refused entry on
charges of hiding information that could be used for chemical

Professor Goverdhan Mehta, 62, an internationally
recognized organic chemist, is president of the Paris-based
International Council for Science (ICSU) and had been invited
to a conference by the University of Florida.

The U.S. embassy said his application made to the consulate
in the southern city of Chennai had only been delayed because
additional information for its processing was needed.

But on Friday, days ahead of a visit by U.S. President
George W. Bush to India, the embassy apologized to Mehta.

"The U.S. Embassy is pleased to note that a visa for
Professor Goverdhan Mehta was issued today," an embassy
statement issued in New Delhi said.

"Ambassador (David) Mulford called on Professor Mehta on
Thursday to notify him and express both his apologies and
satisfaction that a visa would be issued immediately."

The ICSU called the tough rules for granting U.S. visas to
scientists after the September 11, 2001 attacks as "outrageous"
and termed the way Mehta was treated by the U.S. consulate in
Chennai as "hostile."

"Professor Mehta is a very well known scientist, but there
are many lesser known scientists to whom this is happening,"
Carthage Smith, Deputy Executive Director of the ICSU, an
umbrella group of 133 national academies of science and
international science unions, said.

"The bigger issue is important."