BOLIVIAN PRESIDENT'S PLANE REROUTED, SNOWDEN SUSPECTED ON BOARD

12 Jul 2013 11:19

LA PAZ, July 4 (BERNAMA-NNN-MERCOPRESS) -- The plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales home from Russia was rerouted to Austria on Tuesday after France and Portugal refused to let it cross their airspace because of suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board, the country's foreign minister said.

Choquehuanca said in a statement that after France and Portugal cancelled authorisation for the flight, Spain's government allowed the plane to be refuelled in its territory. From there, the Falcon plane flew on to Vienna.

He said the decision by France and Portugal “put at risk the life of the president.”

Morales was in the Vienna airport Tuesday night meeting with the plane's crew to reprogramme his return to Bolivia, the defence minister Saavedra said.

Snowden has applied for asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and 18 other countries, according to WikiLeaks, a secret spilling website that has been advising him.

Many European countries on the list - including Austria, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland - said he would have to make his request on their soil.

WikiLeaks said requests have also been made to Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Iceland, India, Italy and Nicaragua.

One of Snowden's best chances of finding refuge outside the United States may hinge on the president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, who was also in Russia on Tuesday.

Maduro told Russian reporters that his country has not received an application for asylum from Snowden and dodged the question of whether he would take him with him when he left.

But Maduro also defended the former National Security Agency systems analyst.

“Who must protect Snowden? This is the question. This young man of 29 was brave enough to say that we need to protect the world from the American imperial elite, so who should protect him?” Maduro said in response to a question from journalists covering a ceremony to rename a Moscow street after Chavez. “All of mankind, people all over the world must protect him.”

Maduro was scheduled to spend Wednesday in neighboring Belarus before returning to Venezuela.

In Venezuela, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua condemned the decision by France and Portugal.

“All the countries that have denied permission for the flight of our brother president, Evo Morales, must be held responsible for his life and his dignity as president.”

Snowden, who recently turned 30, withdrew a bid for asylum in Russia when he learned the terms Moscow had set out, according to Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Putin said on Monday that Russia was ready to shelter Snowden as long as he stopped leaking US secrets.

At the same time, Putin said he had no plans to turn over Snowden to the United States.

--BERNAMA-NNN-MERCOPRESS

SS RT