Bolivia, Europe in spat over Snowden

Bolivia, Europe in spat over Snowden

Diversion and search of Bolivia President's plane causes uproar France, Portugal, Spain and Italy refuse to allow it over their territory ...

  • Diversion and search of Bolivia President's plane causes uproar
  • France, Portugal, Spain and Italy refuse to allow it over their territory
  • Bolivia decried the action, saying it is an act of aggression
  • US has warned any nation helping Snowden would pay serious costs
BolivaVienna (Agencies): Bolivia on Wednesday, has accused European countries of an "act of aggression" for refusing to allow its presidential plane into their airspace, amid suggestions US fugitive Edward Snowden was on board. Bolivia said France, Portugal, Spain and Italy had blocked the plane from flying over their territory. President Evo Morales was flying back to Bolivia from Moscow when the plane was diverted to Vienna. The jet was reportedly searched for Snowden, wanted for leaking US secrets. He was apparently not on board and is still believed to be in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, from where he is seeking asylum in Bolivia and several other countries. Bolivia's UN envoy Sacha Llorenti told reporters in Geneva that he would complain to the United Nations about the European countries' actions. "The decisions of these countries violated international law. We are already making procedures to denounce this to the UN secretary general," he said. France denied refusing the plane permission, and Spain subsequently said its airspace was open to the jet. And a further row broke out about whether the plane had been searched. Austrian officials said the airport authorities had searched the plane, but Llorenti and other Bolivian officials denied there was any search. The plane took off from Vienna on Wednesday morning. Morales said Presidents should have the right to travel anywhere in the world. "It's not an offence against the president, it is an offence against the country, against the whole of the Latin American region," he said before taking off. The diversion and search of Morales' plane were the latest turns in the 30-year-old Snowden's bid to escape the clutches of the US?since he divulged details of a secret US government surveillance programme, Prism. He is wanted by the US on charges of leaking secrets he gathered while working as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), America's electronic spying agency. Bolivia is among more than a dozen countries where Snowden has sought asylum and Morales has said he would consider granting the American refuge if requested. Snowden's options have narrowed since he arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong with no valid travel documents after the United States revoked his passport. US President Barack Obama has warned that an offer of asylum from a country would carry serious costs. Russian President Vladimir Putin is unwilling to send Snowden to the United States, a move that could make it look weak, and it has no extradition treaty with Washington but Russia does not want to damage ties with the United States over a man for whom Putin, a former KGB spy, has little sympathy.
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