US Wary of Visa Waivers to Pakistani-Origin Britons: NYT

Washington, DC: The US, worried about the number of terror plots in Britain involving people with ties to Pakistan, is seeking to curb a visa waiver program for British citizens to limit access to the US for Britons of Pakistani origin, it was reported on Wednesday.
The New York Times said the chief of President Bush's Homeland Security Department, Michael Chertoff, had opened talks with London about closing the visa waiver loophole. But it said the British were resistant, fearing that such restrictions could spark a backlash from British voters of Pakistani origin, a community of some 800,000 that traditionally backs the governing Labour Party.
Officials told the newspaper they were reluctant to press the issue too hard and embarrass Prime Minister Tony Blair as he prepares to step down from office.
State Department spokesman Tom Casey said he was unaware of any contacts with Britain over the visa waiver program, but could not rule out that such discussions were taking place. But he noted that visa waiver programs were covered by US legislation and could only be altered with congressional approval.
A US Homeland Security Department spokesman said there were "inaccuracies" in the story.
Britain also denied the report. "The New York Times story ... is incorrect," a British Foreign Office spokesman said. "It does not represent British government policy, nor would it be an acceptable proposal. "A spokeswoman for Britain's Home Office denied that Chertoff and Reid had discussed any particular group of people at their meeting. Agencies.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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