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Airport pat-down of India envoy appropriate - U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An airport pat-down of the Indian ambassador to the United States in Mississippi angered her government but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday said it was appropriate under the circumstances.

Passengers wait in line at the Spirit Airlines ticket counter at the O'Hare International Airport in Chicago November 24, 2010. An airport pat-down of an Indian ambassador to the United States in Mississippi angered Indian government but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was appropriate under the circumstances. REUTERS/Frank Polich

U.S. and Indian media reported that Ambassador Meera Shankar received a pat-down as she was leaving Jackson, Mississippi, where she had been invited by Mississippi State University.

Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna was quoted by Indian media groups calling the incident “unacceptable” and saying he planned to raise the issue with the U.S. government.

“This is unacceptable to India and we are going to take it up with the U.S. government and I hope things could be resolved so that such unpleasant incidents do not recur,” Krishna told journalists, according to the Hindu newspaper.

The U.S. State Department said diplomats are subject to the same basic screening as other passengers at U.S. airports.

Following attempted attacks, including last year’s attempt to blow up a flight to Detroit by a passenger with a bomb hidden in his clothes, U.S. authorities have deployed hundreds of full-body scanners and two months ago began doing more physical pat-downs that many travelers find invasive.

Asked about the incident involving Shankar, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she had looked into the matter and concluded that “it was by the book.”

“It was a pat-down that followed our procedures, and I think it was appropriate under the circumstances,” Napolitano told reporters.

She said there are protocols in which if U.S. authorities are notified before a passenger with special credentials gets to an airport, they can try to expedite their security check.

“In this particular instance, that protocol had not been utilized,” she said. “I think what was done by the ... officer was done appropriately and by the book.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she was “concerned” by the incident and would look into it “to determine both what happened and what we could do to prevent such incidents in the future.”

Editing by Xavier Briand