5 Jul 2013

Leaders demand apology for Bolivia

9:30 pm on 5 July 2013

Leaders of four South American nations have demanded an apology from European countries for what they call the virtual kidnapping of the Bolivian president earlier this week.

The plane in which Evo Morales was travelling was denied access to some European airspace and forced to land in Austria amid unfounded suspicions that fugitive American intelligence analyst Edward Snowden was on board.

The former CIA contractor is believed to be holed up at the transit area of Moscow airport after leaking details of a vast US surveillance programme known as Prism.

Mr Morales' presidential jet was rerouted as he travelled from a meeting in Russia where he had suggested that he would be willing to consider an asylum application from Mr Snowden. His plane took off from Vienna on Wednesday morning and arrived back in La Paz on Wednesday night.

On Thursday Mr Morales was joined by the presidents of Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Venezuela and Suriname at a meeting. They issued a statement demanding an explanation from France, Portugal, Italy and Spain over their actions.

Mr Morales has threatened to close the US embassy in Bolivia over the incident and blamed Washington for pressurising European countries into refusing him passage, the BBC reports.

"My hand would not shake to close the US embassy. We have dignity, sovereignty. Without the United States, we are better politically and democratically."

France has apologised for the plane incident, blaming it on "conflicting information". Demonstrators marched on the French embassy in La Paz on Wednesday, burning the French flag and demanding the expulsion of the ambassador to Bolivia.