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US grants Venezuela permission to enter airspace

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro talks during a press conference in Caracas on September 9, 2013
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro talks during a press conference at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas on September 9, 2013.

The United States said Friday it granted access to its airspace so Venezuela's president can fly to China, denying claims by Caracas that permission was denied.

On Thursday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro bristled with outrage at the "serious offense" of denying his plane rights to US airspace for the weekend voyage.

The leftist leader -- successor to the late anti-US firebrand Hugo Chavez -- also accused the US of refusing visas to some of the members of his delegation to the UN General Assembly opening next week in New York.

But the United States said it had in fact granted fly-over rights, and denied that visas had been withheld from the Venezuelan delegation.

"The US has granted permission to Venezuelan authorities to enter US airspace," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in an email.

"I can tell you that no visas have been denied for the Venezuelan delegation to this year's UN General Assembly," she added later.

Harf said that although the air space request was not submitted properly, US authorities worked with the Venezuelan embassy to resolve the issue.

"US authorities made an extraordinary effort to work with relevant authorities to grant overflight approval in a matter of hours," Harf said.

"As a result we were able to notify the Venezuelan authorities last night that permission was granted."

Harf said the request for diplomatic clearance for the aircraft -- which she said was not a state aircraft as required for such clearance -- to enter the airspace with just a day's notice.

"Diplomatic flight clearances are required to be made with three days advance notice," she said.

"We advised Venezuela on the correct way to get the clearance and notified their authorities last night that permission was granted," she said.