Iran closes airspace to Merkel plane

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Iran briefly closed its airspace to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's plane as she flew overnight Monday to Tuesday to India, her spokesman said.

"Strange start to Indian trip -- Iran temporarily denies overflight to chancellor's plane. Delayed landing in Delhi," Steffen Seibert said in a message sent on Twitter.

The reason for the overflight denial was not immediately known.

Media reports said the plane carrying Merkel and a high-level delegation had to circle for two hours over Turkey before receiving permission to cross Iranian airspace.

A second plane with four of Merkel's ministers and other delegation members was not delayed.

Merkel has been highly critical of Iran's human rights' record and its alleged plans to develop nuclear weapons.

Merkel, who is seeking improved trade between Europe's biggest economy and booming South Asia, was to meet Tuesday with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil during a one-day stop in the Indian capital as part of an Asian tour that will also take her to Singapore.

© 2011 AFP

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