Bolivia's Morales: U.S. Embassy could close after plane incident

July 5, 2013 at 11:34 AM
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LA PAZ, Bolivia, July 5 (UPI) -- Bolivian President Evo Morales threatened to close the U.S. Embassy in his country after his airplane was barred from European airspace earlier this week.

Word of Morales' warning came as four other South American leaders voiced support during a summit on the matter Thursday, the BBC reported.

Morales' plane was forced to land in Austria Tuesday after France, Portugal, Italy and Spain barred it from flying through their airspace on the suspicion U.S. secrets leaker Edward Snowden was traveling with him.

Morales blamed Washington for pressuring European countries into refusing him passage in their airspace, forcing him to refuel in Vienna. He departed Austria Wednesday and arrived in Bolivia that night.

Snowden faces charges in the United States, including two espionage-related counts, for leaking information about the National Security Agency's cellphone and Internet monitoring programs.

"My hand would not shake to close the U.S. embassy," Morales said. "We have dignity, sovereignty. Without the United States, we are better politically and democratically."

The South American leaders attending a Union of South American Nations summit issued a statement after the meeting, demanding France, Portugal, Italy and Spain explain their actions. While the United States wasn't mentioned in the statement, several leaders criticized Washington in comments after the meeting.

"If this had happened to the president of the United States, it probably would have been grounds for war," Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said Friday Madrid had "no reason to apologize," explaining his country's airspace was never closed to Morales' plane, but the delay in Austria meant the flight permit expired and had to be renewed.

Without identifying the source of information, Garcia-Margallo said "They told us he [Snowden] was inside."

France apologized, blaming it on "conflicting information."

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