Hollande says opened airspace when told Morales aboard

3rd July 2013, Comments 0 comments

French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday he had opened his country's airspace to the Bolivian presidential jet as soon as he knew head of state Evo Morales was aboard.

"There was conflicting information about the passengers who were on board," Hollande said in Berlin. "When I knew it was the plane of the Bolivian president, I immediately gave permission for it to fly" over French territory.

The flight from Moscow was diverted late Tuesday to Vienna on suspicion it was harbouring fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who is wanted by the United States.

Bolivian officials have accused France, Portugal, Italy and Spain of denying entry to the jet over "unfounded rumours" Snowden was on board, after Morales had said his country would consider granting him political asylum if he submitted a request.

The incident has sparked a bitter row, with Morales saying it "was like a near 13-hour kidnapping" and his government announcing it had lodged a complaint with the United Nations.

The jet later Wednesday stopped at the airport at Las Palmas on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria for about an hour before resuming its flight to Bolivia.

In La Paz, about 100 protesters threw stones and burned the French flag at Paris's embassy, with demonstrators shouting: "Hypocrite France!"

© 2013 AFP

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