United Nations approves accreditation for arrested Indian diplomat

NEW YORK (AFP) - The United Nations said on Tuesday it had accepted a request from India to issue accreditation to a diplomat in the eye of a legal and diplomatic storm between Delhi and Washington.

The US State Department must approve all changes in diplomatic status of foreign envoys on American soil, and it has not yet said how it will respond to the UN's processing the request.

India's deputy consul general in New York, Dr Devyani Khobragade, was arrested by US authorities on Dec 12 on suspicion of lying on a visa application for her maid and of underpaying her.

The Delhi government and many ordinary Indians were outraged by her treatment, and Delhi wants to transfer her accreditation to the UN in a bid to strengthen her diplomatic immunity.

"The United Nations has received notification to register Ms Khobragade as a member of the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations," UN spokeswoman Morana Song said.

"We can confirm that the United Nations has processed this request per its standard procedures," she said.

As a consular official accredited to the United States, Dr Khobragade has only limited immunity from prosecution and has been charged with visa fraud and making false statements about her maid's salary.

If she is accredited to the UN mission she will enjoy a higher level of protection and India might find it easier to bring her home.

Her arrest and subsequent treatment, she was held for 48 hours pending charges and underwent an intimate search on being taken into custody, triggered a high-level international row.

India responded to the charges - brought by a New York federal prosecutor - with diplomatic sanctions, stripping some US envoys to India of special passes that afford travel privileges.

Indian police also removed security barriers regulating traffic around the US embassy in Delhi, and anti-American street protests erupted.

US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed "regret" for the offence caused but Manhattan's US Attorney Preet Bharara has insisted he acted to protect the rights of Ms Khobragade's Indian maid.