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'I'm not a criminal', says Morales after jet diverted: report

Vienna, Jul 3, 2013, (AFP): 15:14 IST
Evo MoralesBolivian President Evo Morales addresses a news conference at the Vienna International Airport in Schwechat July 3, 2013. Morales said on Wednesday he was awaiting Spanish permission to fly home through its airspace after he refused Madrid's request to inspect his plane following its diversion to Vienna. France and Portugal abruptly cancelled air permits for Morales' plane en route from Moscow on Tuesday, apparently due to fears fugitive ex-U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden could be on board. Bolivian and Austrian officials denied this. REUTERS
Bolivian President Evo Morales angrily denied any wrongdoing today after his plane was diverted to Vienna over suspicion fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was on board.

"I'm not a criminal," the Austria Press Agency quoted Morales as saying at Vienna airport, after France, Italy, Spain and Portugal denied his plane entry into their airspace overnight.

Bolivian and Austrian officials said Snowden was not aboard the plane which arrived from Moscow late yesterday, though no search of the jet has been carried out.

The Russian capital is also where Snowden has been holed up in an airport transit area since June 23. He is seeking to avoid US espionage charges for revealing a vast surveillance program to collect phone and Internet data.

Morales told reporters that Madrid had asked to inspect his plane before giving it permission to enter its airspace, a request he said he denied because it would violate international law.

Spain has since granted Bolivia permission to fly over its territory, the foreign ministry in Madrid said.

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