x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Bolivia's Morales arrives home after plane diverted on Snowden hunch

Bolivian president calls the rerouting of his plane over suspicions that leaker Edward Snowden was aboard a provocation to Latin America and urged European countries to 'free themselves' from the United States.

LA PAZ // The Bolivian president called the rerouting of his plane over suspicions that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was aboard a provocation to Latin America and urged European countries to "free themselves" from the United States.

Evo Morales' presidential plane arrived home in Bolivia's capital early today following an unplanned 14-hour layover in Vienna. His government said France, Spain and Portugal all refused to let it through their airspace, forcing it to land in Austria. He had been flying home from a summit in Russia.

Bolivian government officials have repeatedly said they believe that Washington was behind the incident.

"It is an open provocation to the continent, not only to the president; they use the agent of North American imperialism to scare us and intimidate us," Mr Morales said to about 100 supporters gathered at the La Paz airport to greet him.

Russia condemned France, Spain and Portugal for blocking the flight from Moscow to La Paz.

"The action of the French, Spanish and Portuguese authorities can hardly be viewed as a friendly step toward Bolivia or Russia," the Russian foreign ministry said.

The US declined to comment on whether it was involved in any decision to close European airspace, saying only that "US officials have been in touch with a broad range of countries over the course of the last 10 days", about the Snowden case.

Mr Snowden remains out of public view, believed to be stuck in a Moscow airport transit area, seeking asylum from one of more than a dozen countries.

 

* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse