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September 8, 2000
PM and entourage take over Waldorf Astoria
Amberish K Diwanji in New York
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee arrived in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly Millennium Summit at 1245 hours local time.
Touching down at the JFK airport, the prime minister and his official delegation immediately departed for the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan.
At the Waldorf Astoria, India officials deputed from the Indian consulate in New York and the Permanent Mission of India to the UN, besides those who have been flown down from India for the prime minister's visit, went into a tizzy making last minute checks to ensure that all systems are go.
The prime minister is staying in a grand suite on the ninth floor of the 44-storey hotel while Indian officials have been dispersed over the other floors. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh is at present already a guest at the hotel, residing on the 21st floor in a comparatively smaller suite.
Another suite has been converted into an office for the prime minister's aides, while officials have turned one room into a control room.
Besides the prime minister and his family (which includes his son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya), members of the Special Protection Group are also housed at the Waldorf, to be as near the PM as possible.
Besides the SPG cover, the US Diplomatic Security Service corps -- whose purpose is to provide security cover to various visiting heads of state and government who flock to New York during the UN season -- is also in attendance.
If there is one hotel that is the favourite of leaders from across the globe, then surely it must the grand Waldorf Astoria, located on 301 Park Avenue.
This hotel boasts 1,400 rooms, and has been the New York home of US presidents visiting from Washington DC ever since Herbert Hoover inaugurated the present establishment in 1931. According to the hotel's public relations manager, Shelley Clark, the Waldorf has the most number of suites of any hotel in New York.
Actually, while the present Waldorf was inaugurated in 1931, the original Waldorf came up in 1893. It stood on the site where the Empire State Building, once the tallest building in New York, now stands on West 34th Street, 5th Avenue.
In fact, just before Vajpayee reached the Waldorf, US President Bill Clinton left the hotel en route to the UN. His departure from the hotel was enough for the New York police to block all traffic and bring the city that never sleeps to a halt, albeit momentarily.
And while Clinton went out via 48th Street, just minutes later, Chinese President Jiang Zemin departed from 47th Street.
Vajpayee will be in good company. At present, there are some 30 heads of state or government living in the hotel, all here for the Millennium Summit which concludes on Friday, September 8. Vajpayee addresses the summit on the last day, in the afternoon.
rediff.com has assigned Associate Editors Amberish K Diwanji and Savera R Someshwar to cover Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to the United States. Don't forget to log into rediff.com for news of this historic visit as it happens!
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