Paris: Bolivia's president left Europe for home Wednesday amid diplomatic drama, a day after his flight was rerouted and delayed in Austria amid suggestions that he was trying to spirit NSA leaker Edward Snowden to Latin America.
Bolivia demanded explanation from various European countries it accused of thwarting President Evo Morales' flight.
French officials denied today that France refused to let the plane cross over its airspace amid suspicions that Snowden was aboard. Spain, too, said the plane was free to cross its territory.
The plane carrying Morales home from Moscow was rerouted to Austria yesterday night, in a new twist to the international uproar over Snowden and the widespread U.S. surveillance that he revealed. It took off again from Vienna shortly before noon today.
Bolivian and Austrian officials both say Snowden was not on Morales' plane, which left Moscow yesterday following a summit. Morales had suggested that his government would be willing to consider granting asylum to the American.
Snowden is believed to be in a Moscow airport transit area, seeking asylum from one of more than a dozen countries. Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations, speaking in Geneva today, continued to insist that several European countries had refused permission for the plane to fly in their airspace.
Sacha Llorenti said it was an "act of aggression" and that France, Portugal, Spain and Italy violated international law. Llorenti said "the orders came from the United States" but other nations violated the immunity of the president and his plane, putting his life at risk.
Bolivian officials said that France, Portugal and Italy blocked the plane from flying over their territories based on unfounded rumors that Snowden was on board. Bolivia said Spain agreed to allow the plane to refuel in the Canary Islands — but only if Bolivian authorities agreed to allow it to be inspected.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said today that Morales' plane had authorization to fly over France. French officials would not comment on why Bolivian officials said otherwise.
Spain's foreign ministry said in a statement today that the country yesterday authorized Morales' plane to fly within its airspace and to make the Canary Islands refueling stop and gave the authorization again Wednesday morning after Bolivian authorities repeated the request.
A foreign ministry official declined comment when asked if Spain demanded the right to inspect the plane. The Spanish spoke on condition of anonymity because of ministry rules. Officials in Portugal did not return repeated telephone messages seeking comment and Italian officials were not available to speak on the subject today morning.
In Vienna, an official said that Morales' aircraft asked controllers at Vienna airport to land because there was "no clear indication" that the plane had enough fuel to continue on its journey.