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article imageSpain tries to defuse row with Bolivia over Morales' plane

By Anne Sewell     Jul 5, 2013 in World
Madrid - Spain is trying to defuse a diplomatic spat on Friday, over Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane and its diversion, due to suspicions that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was stowed-away on board.
Digital Journal reported on the uproar over several European countries refusing to allow the Bolivian presidential plane into their airspace, after flying out of Moscow on Tuesday.
Bolivia was furious that their leader was forced to land in Vienna to be searched, as suspicions were that President Evo Morales had Snowden tucked away on board the plane.
One of the countries targeted by the Bolivians was Spain. However, Spain's foreign minister denies that his country closed its airspace to the Bolivian leader's plane.
Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo told TVE, "What Spain said was that in no case was it going to restrict its airspace and that it would keep its authorization in force so the plane could land and refuel in Las Palmas."
"We have to try somehow to calm things down, relax the mood, and resume relations," García-Margallo added in an interview with Spanish public broadcaster.
When asked if Spain had been contacted by the US authorities, or if they had been in contact themselves, the foreign minister told the media: "That remains secret."
"European countries reacted the way they did because the information they gave us was that he (Snowden) was on board," he added.
"We evaluated the risk (that Snowden was on the plane) but once I have a written guarantee that he isn't, I believe in the word of an ally, which Bolivia is."
However, six presidents of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) (representing Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, Uruguay and Surinam), met in Cochabamba, Bolivia to sign a statement in which the group considers unacceptable the restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of President Evo Morales by the airspace of several European countries.
They have demanded apologies from the governments of France, Portugal, Spain and Italy, together with a clear explanation of what led them to believe that the former US intelligence agent was hidden on board and why they chose to prevent the Presidential plane from flying over their countries.
Meanwhile, Snowden is still believed to be holed up in the transit area of the Moscow airport. As Digital Journal reported, Snowden, with the help of Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks, has approached 21 countries in a bid for asylum. Amongst the 21 countries is Bolivia, and Morales had said earlier in the week that his country would be willing to look at this request.
The fact that he then traveled to Moscow to attend a gas supplier's conference appears to have added to the paranoia that Snowden may have been on the Bolivian Presidential plane.
Spain was also approached by Snowden but said that they cannot offer asylum unless he is on Spanish national soil.
Besides the meeting of Unasur over the issue, it seems Ecuador was the one that said Spain had told its ambassador in Austria to board the plane in Vienna to check for the famous stowaway, which Spain had denied, according to El País on Friday.
The news service went on to quote Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as saying: “Who does that prime minister, Rajoy, think he is? He thinks South Americans are still his slaves?”
EFE reported that Maduro had also said that he would be reconsidering his country's relations with the “vile” ruling Popular Party government, but “not with the people of Spain."
Meanwhile, all was well when President Morales was eventually allowed to land in the Spanish Canary Islands to refuel for his trip home, a little the worse for wear.
More about Spain, Bolivia, Evo morales, Plane, Fueling
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