Bolivia denies Snowden on president’s plane

La Paz, July 3 (IANS) Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca Tuesday denied that US whistleblower Edward Snowden was on the plane flying Bolivia’s president out of Europe, after the aircraft was diverted on suspicion it was carrying the two men.

In a televised announcement, the minister said: “We don’t know who invented the lie, but we want to denounce the injustice of (diverting) President Evo Morales’ plane to the international community”, Xinhua reported.

The plane carrying Morales from Moscow, where he was attending a meeting of natural gas-producing nations, was diverted to Vienna after France and Portugal refused to allow it to enter their airspace.

Earlier Tuesday, Bolivia said it had not officially received an asylum request from Snowden but was willing to consider such a petition.

“Officially no request has arrived, but if it arrives, the president has said we will consider it,” Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said at a press conference.

Garcia referred to President Morales’ statements made Tuesday in Moscow that “if there is a petition, of course we are willing to discuss, to analyze the issue”.

Also Tuesday, the WikiLeaks website revealed that Bolivia was among some 20 countries Snowden had requested political asylum from after withdrawing his asylum request from Russia because of the conditions imposed by President Vladimir Putin.

Putin publicly offered Snowden asylum on the condition that he stop affecting the US with his disclosures.

Snowden, a former contractor with the US National Security Agency (NSA), blew the lid off the agency’s secret global surveillance programme, angering Washington, which has charged him with espionage.

Snowden first fled to Hong Kong, but is now reportedly at a Moscow airport transit zone awaiting word on asylum.

US Vice President Joe Biden has been asking countries to refuse Snowden asylum, as Ecuador’s president recently revealed.

Brazil’s foreign ministry Tuesday confirmed it received an asylum request from Snowden but said it had no plans to respond.

India on Tuesday refused Snowden’s request.

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