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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Dec 2014

World

Bolivian prez plane searched for Snowden stowaway
AP
Paris, July 03, 2013
First Published: 07:49 IST(3/7/2013)
Last Updated: 02:58 IST(4/7/2013)

Bolivia's president left Europe for home on Wednesday in a flurry of diplomatic drama after his flight was rerouted and delayed in Austria, allegedly because of suspicion he was trying to spirit NSA leaker Edward Snowden to Latin America.

Bolivia accused the US of ordering European countries to block President Evo Morales' flight from their airspace, and accused European governments of “aggression” by thwarting the flight.

However it's still unclear whether European countries did block the plane and, if so, why. French, Spanish and Portuguese officials all said Wednesday the plane was allowed to cross their territory.

Morales sparked speculation during a visit to Russia after he said that his country would be willing to consider granting asylum to Snowden. Snowden is believed to be stuck in a Moscow airport transit area, seeking asylum from one of more than a dozen countries.

The plane carrying Morales home from a Moscow gas summit was rerouted to Austria on Tuesday night, adding a new twist to the international uproar Snowden's revelations of widespread U.S. surveillance. The plane took off again from Vienna shortly before noon Wednesday.

Austrian officials said Morales' plane was searched early Wednesday by Austrian border police after Morales gave permission. Bolivian and Austrian officials both say Snowden was not on board.

Despite the statements from France, Spain and Portugal, Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations, speaking in Geneva on Wednesday, continued to insist that several European countries had refused permission for the plane to fly in their airspace.


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