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Bolivia leader's jet leaves Vienna after Snowden row

Bolivian President Evo Morales holds a press conference at Vienna International Airport on July 3, 2013
Bolivian President Evo Morales holds a press conference at Vienna International Airport on July 3, 2013. Morales's jet left Vienna on Wednesday after it was diverted overnight on suspicion of harbouring fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Bolivian President Evo Morales's jet left Vienna on Wednesday after it was diverted there overnight on suspicion of harbouring fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Before departing, Morales said the ordeal "was like a near 13-hour kidnapping."

Search for Snowden grounds presidential plane
Graphic showing how Bolivian president Evo Morales was forced to land in Austria on suspicion that his plane was carrying fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

The plane took off at 11:45 am local time (0945 GMT) and was expected to stop in Las Palmas on the Spanish Canary Islands for servicing before completing its journey to Bolivia.

Austrian and Bolivian officials have insisted Snowden was not aboard the plane.

But the diversion has sparked a diplomatic row, with Bolivia announcing protest rallies outside the embassies of European countries that denied Morales entry into their airspace, forcing his landing in Vienna.

Edward Snowden pictured during an interview with The Guardian in Hong Kong on June 6, 2013
Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, speaks during an interview with The Guardian newspaper in Hong Kong, June 6, 2013.

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

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

Speaking to journalists at Vienna airport, Morales complained of some European states' decisions to deny him access to their airspace.

Bolivian President Evo Morales boards his plane before leaving the Vienna International Airport on July 3, 2013
Bolivian President Evo Morales waves as he boards his plane before leaving the Vienna International Airport on July 3, 2013.

"I am not a delinquent," he said, adding that the countries concerned -- France, Italy and Portugal -- would have to explain themselves.

"This is not a provocation against Evo Morales but against Bolivia and all of Latin America. It's an attack on Latin America by certain European states," he added.

Morales said he could not understand why the countries thought Snowden was travelling with him.

"The United States and almost every European country has intelligence agents all over the world and this man (Snowden) is not a suitcase, an animal or a fly that I can just put in my plane and take with me to Bolivia," he told journalists.

Bolivia will now study the possible consequences for these countries' actions, Morales said.

In Geneva, Bolivia's ambassador to the UN, Sacha Llorenti, also said the country would file a complaint to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

"The decisions of these countries have violated international law.... We are already making procedures to denounce this to the UN secretary general," he told reporters in Geneva.

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