Obama won't see the Taj as Agra visit cancelled

Lucknow: The much anticipated visit of US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle to Agra has been cancelled, Uttar Pradesh government officials said Saturday.

A government spokesman told IANS that the presidential visit "for all practical purposes was over".

However, no official word with regard to this has been passed on to authorities in the state capital.

Obama is coming to India on a three-day state visit Jan 25. He will become the first US president to be the chief guest at Republic Day parade Jan 26. The Agra visit was slated on the last day of his sojourn.

The official said that the advance teams of the US Secret Service and other officials have returned. He did not elaborate.

Sources, however, 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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