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Airspace violation: Venezuela to summon US diplomat

world Updated: May 20, 2008 02:49 IST

Venezuela will summon the US ambassador to explain a violation of its airspace by a US military plane, the country's foreign minister said on Monday.

The US Navy plane was detected in Venezuelan airspace near the Caribbean island of La Orchila on Saturday night, and the plane was contacted by radio, Defense Minister Gen Gustavo Rangel Briceno said.

A US defense official said a Navy S-3 Viking plane, which is used for counter-narcotics missions, may have accidentally crossed into Venezuela's airspace while on a training mission in international airspace near Venezuela's Los Roques Islands, and experienced "intermittent navigational problems."

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said US Ambassador Patrick Duddy will be called in to discuss the matter. "We will ask for an explanation," Maduro said.

Asked about the accusation, US Embassy spokeswoman Robin Holzhauer said: "We're looking into any possible accidental incursion of Venezuelan airspace."

Rangel described the plane as a US warplane, saying it was "detected by our air defense system" and was contacted by the control tower at Caracas' international airport in nearby Maiquetia.

He read a transcript the radio conversation, with the control tower asking the pilot to "confirm your nationality" and the pilot saying it was a US plane and headed for Curacao.

The US defense official said Navy crew on the plane, which is based in Curacao, also reported they had a brief radio conversation with air traffic control personnel, and concluded they had mistakenly flown into Venezuelan airspace.