Jul 04, 2013

    Snowden sparks new diplomatic row

    FUGITIVE United States intelligence leaker Edward Snowden's struggle to find a safe haven sparked a diplomatic row yesterday after the Bolivian presidential plane was diverted to Austria over suspicions that he was on board.

    The incident happened hours after Bolivia President Evo Morales said his country would consider a request for political asylum if Mr Snowden submitted one.

    Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca accused France and Portugal of denying airspace to the plane - forcing it to reroute - over a "huge lie" that the fugitive was with Mr Morales. Bolivian Defence Minister Ruben Saavedra said Italy had also closed its airspace.

    "The President was forced to land in Vienna," Mr Choquehuanca told reporters in La Paz, alleging that Mr Morales' life had been put in danger by what he called a forced emergency landing.

    "There were unfounded rumours that Mr Snowden may have been on board the aircraft," he said.

    Mr Morales had been on a visit to Moscow, and has since left Vienna.

    Mr Snowden, who is seeking to avoid US espionage charges for revealing a vast surveillance programme to collect phone and Internet data, has been holed up in an airport transit area in Moscow since June 23.

    Bolivia has accused Austria of an act of aggression by searching the plane. Austria found no sign of Mr Snowden on board.