'Italy denies airspace to Morales' amid Snowden suspicions

Austria confirms NSA leaker not on board, Bolivia outraged

'Italy denies airspace to Morales' amid Snowden suspicions

Rome, July 3 - Bolivian Defence Minister Ruben Saavedra said Wednesday that Italy, among other countries, had denied use of its airspace to Bolivian President Evo Morales amid suspicion that US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was on board his plane. Qualified Italian sources confirmed the statements to ANSA but said the airspace has since been reopened. The sources stressed that Italy, given its defence alliance with other European countries, followed the lead of France and Portugal after they denied access to their airspace. Morales' plane was diverted to Austria overnight after leaving Russia where some suspected he had smuggled Snowden out of the Moscow airport in order to attain asylum in Bolivia, which is among the 20 countries where the former National Security Agency was seeking refuge. "This is a hostile act by the United States state department which has used various European governments," said Saavedra, who was also aboard the flight. Austrian spokesmen said Snowden was not on board the Bolivian leader's plane. Snowden is wanted for espionage in the U.S. after revealing a secret, wide-ranging Internet-and-telephone-surveillance program there last month. He has been holed up in the Moscow airport since the US revoked his passport after he arrived from Hong Kong on 23 June. Morales' aircraft is expected to depart Austria for Bolivia later Wednesday.

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