LA PAZ, BOLIVIA — The plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales home from Russia was rerouted to Austria on Tuesday after France and Portugal refused to let it cross their airspace because of suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board, the country’s foreign minister said.
Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca denied that Snowden was on the plane, which landed in Vienna, and said France and Portugal would have to explain why they canceled authorization for the plane.
“We don’t know who invented this lie. We want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of President Evo Morales,” Choquehuanca said from La Paz. Morales had earlier met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit of major gas exporters in the Kremlin.
In an interview with Russia Today television, Morales said that his South American country would be willing to consider granting asylum to Snowden.
Leaks by Snowden, a former NSA systems analyst, have revealed the NSA’s sweeping data collection of U.S. phone records and some Internet traffic, though U.S. intelligence officials have said the programs are aimed at targeting foreigners and terrorist suspects mostly overseas.
He is believed to be in a Moscow airport transit area, seeking asylum from one of more than a dozen countries.
“This is a hostile act by the United States State Department which has used various European governments,” said Bolivian Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra, who was on the flight.
Choquehuanca said in a statement that after France and Portugal canceled authorization for the flight, Spain’s government allowed the plane to be refueled in its territory. From there the plane flew on to Vienna.
He said the decision by France and Portugal “put at risk the life of the president.”
Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Schallenberg told The Associated Press that Snowden is not with Morales and that the Bolivian president is spending the night at a Vienna hotel.
Snowden has applied for asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and 18 other countries, according to WikiLeaks, a secret-spilling website that has been advising him. Many European countries on the list — including Austria, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland — said he would have to make his request on their soil.
WikiLeaks said requests also have been made to Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Iceland, India, Italy and Nicaragua.
One of Snowden’s best chances of finding refuge outside the United States may hinge on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who was also in Russia on Tuesday. Maduro told Russian reporters that his country has not received an application for asylum from Snowden and dodged the question of whether he would take him with him when he left.