3 Jul 2013

Spain allows Bolivian leader's plane to fly over

10:17 pm on 3 July 2013

Spain has opened its airspace to Bolivian president Evo Morales' plane, after it was diverted to Austria amid suspicions that US fugitive Edward Snowden was on board.

Austrian officials said the plane was searched on Tuesday and Mr Snowden, wanted by the United States for leaking secrets, was not there. The plane took off from Vienna on Wednesday.

Bolivia has been enraged by Mr Morales' treatment, and has asked for a crisis meeting of South American leaders, the BBC reports.

Mr Snowden is reportedly seeking asylum in Bolivia and several other countries to avoid extradition to the US. He is still believed to be in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

Mr Morales was flying back to Bolivia from Moscow, where he had been holding talks with gas-exporting nations, when his plane was diverted on Tuesday.

Bolivia accused officials in France, Portugal, Spain and Italy of blocking the plane from flying over their territories. But France denied refusing the plane permission, and Spain subsequently said its airspace was open to the jet.

Mr Snowden is wanted by the US on charges of leaking secrets gathered while working as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), America's electronic spying agency.

The leaking of thousands of classified intelligence documents prompted revelations that the US has been systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data.

On Tuesday, eight countries rejected Mr Snowden's requests for asylum including Austria and Spain.