Spanish controllers strike grounds planes

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A wildcat strike by air traffic controllers kept planes grounded across Spain on Saturday, airport controller AENA said, despite the military taking command.

"The situation is the same. There are no flights. We only have transatlantic arrivals at Madrid-Barajas, they are the only flights operational," said an AENA spokesman.

"The situation is the same in the whole country."

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero sent in the military Friday after controllers called in sick en masse, closing down airspace on the eve of a long weekend and affecting an estimated 250,000 passengers.

The government has said it will hold an emergency cabinet meeting at 9am (0800 GMT) and may declare a state of alert if controllers still have not returned to work.

This could lead to prison sentences for strikers.

"If a controller does not show up to his work place, he will be placed immediately in custody accused of a crime which could mean serious prison sentences," Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told reporters in the early hours.

© 2010 AFP

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