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  Politics
France apologizes to Bolivia for incident involving Presidential plane
03/07/2013   |   11:08 PM | World News
تصغير الخطالشكل الأساسيتكبير الخط
PARIS, July 3 (KUNA) -- France has apologized to Bolivia for an incident Tuesday whereby French air traffic controllers refused transit rights over this country for the plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales, official sources said Wednesday.
France, along with Spain, Portugal and Italy closed its air space to a flight carrying Morales from Moscow on his way back to Bolivia, allegedly because the plane was also rumored to be carrying US espionage whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The former National Security Agency contractor is wanted by the United States for divulging information on a massive US spying operation targeting both American citizens but also the European Union and several diplomatic missions, including the French embassy in Washington and the mission in New York.
France has reacted angrily to the reports on spying against its national facilities and personnel and has called for US-EU free trade talks to be suspended for two weeks, pending an explanation from Washington.
But the Bolivian plane incident has fuelled allegations that the European powers ceded to US pressure to prevent Morales flying over their territory and allegedly helping Snowden to flee.
The Bolivian leader was forced to land in Vienna where he remained overnight and his plane was searched during the forced stop over.
Bolivia says it will lodge a complaint with the United Nations for breach of international law and violation of conventions regarding diplomats and Heads of State.
Demonstrators in the Bolivian capital, La Paz, protested violently outside the French embassy on Wednesday, throwing stones at the building and burning French and European flags.
French President Francois Hollande said in a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday evening that as soon as he had learned Morales was aboard the blocked plane, he ordered French air space to be opened for him.
The French Foreign Ministry confirmed this statement later.
Also on Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called his Bolivian counterpart to express "the regrets of France following the difficulty caused for President Morales by the delay in confirming the over-flight rights" in France, a statement in Paris said.
Fabius said he had given the Bolivian government "the necessary clarifications about the incident." Nonetheless, it is still not clear if France did agree to close its airspace to a flight because it was allegedly carrying Snowden, who has asked over 20 countries for political asylum.
The US national, whose passport has been cancelled by his government, is currently blocked in the transit zone at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and has been there for almost two weeks. (end) jk.mb KUNA 032308 Jul 13NNNN
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