Bolivians condemn US ‘act of aggression’ after Snowden search

No unauthorised people were found on board Bolivia's President Evo Morales's plane at Vienna airport on Wednesday when Austrian authorities carried out an inspection.

Bolivian Deputy Chancellor Michael Spindelegger confirmed this.

The plane was forced to land in Austria after France and Portugal abruptly cancelled air permits for it while en route from Moscow on Tuesday, apparently due to fears fugitive ex-US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden could be on board.

Bolivian and Austrian officials denied this.

Morales angrily denied any wrongdoing after the search.

"I'm not a criminal," the Austria Press Agency quoted Morales as saying at Vienna airport, after France, Italy, Spain and Portugal denied his plane entry into their airspace overnight.

"Morales agreed to a voluntary inspection," Spindelegger told reporters at the airport.

Act of aggression
"Our colleagues from the airport had a look and can give assurances that no one is on board who is not a Bolivian citizen," Spindelegger added, saying rumours that Snowden might be on board were untrue.

The decision to search the plane was an act of aggression and a violation of international law, Bolivia said on Wednesday.

Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations in New York Sacha Llorentty Solíz told reporters in Geneva that he had no doubt that the orders to divert Morales's plane came from the United States.

Bolivian and Austrian officials said Snowden was not aboard the plane which arrived from Moscow late on Tuesday.

The Russian capital is also where Snowden has been holed up in an airport transit area since June 23. He is seeking to avoid US espionage charges for revealing a vast surveillance programme to collect phone and internet data.

Morales told reporters that Madrid had asked to inspect his plane before giving it permission to enter its airspace, a request he said he denied because it would violate international law.

Spain has since granted Bolivia permission to fly over its territory, the foreign ministry in Madrid said. – Sapa-AFP; Reuters

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