Bolivia outraged as Snowden row diverts Morales jet

Bolivia voiced outrage that its president had been held up in Europe over suspicion that fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was aboard his homeward-bound plane.

President Evo Morales had been in Moscow, where Snowden is holed up at the airport, attending a meeting of energy producing countries. He told Russian media Tuesday his country would consider granting the 30-year-old intelligence contractor asylum.

Several European countries initially denied Morales's plane overflight rights, including France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. The plane ended up having to land in Vienna en route to La Paz.

Bolivia said the United States was behind this latest twist in the Snowden saga.

Of the four that denied overfly rights, all but Spain later reversed course, Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra said.

Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca angrily denied Snowden was on the plane, calling the idea a "huge lie."

"President Evo is no criminal. He had the right to immunity on his flight," acting president Alvaro Garcia, normally the vice president, said in La Paz.

"President Evo has been kidnapped by imperialist forces and is detained in Europe," Garcia added.

Snowden, 30, revealed details of a vast US surveillance program to collect phone and Internet data. His passport was revoked after US federal charges were filed against him.

Choquehuanca asserted that Morales's life had been put in danger by what he called a forced emergency landing.

Bolivia is one of 21 nations to which Snowden has applied for asylum, according to the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks website.

"Bolivia is there to shield the (accused), whether it is espionage or control. In either case, we are here to assist," Morales told Russia's state-run RT television.

Choquehuanca said Morales's plane had been scheduled to refuel in Portugal, but both Lisbon and then Paris denied overflight.

The plane was re-routed to include a stop in Spain's Canary islands, but France then refused to allow overflight of its territory, Choquehuanca said.

France's foreign ministry said it could not immediately comment on the situation.

An Austrian foreign ministry official said Morales would leave early Wednesday for La Paz.

But Spain still had yet to give its permission, Saavedra said, so the presidential plane was still waiting early Wednesday, Saavedra said.

The defense chief said he was appalled that the Spanish ambassador in Austria had implied that the overflight permission from Madrid would be made conditional on Spain inspecting the presidential aircraft "as a sort of blackmail."

"We reject that condition," Saavedra said defiantly.

Bolivia's leftist regional allies Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela rallied behind Morales, voicing outrage.

"We express our solidarity with Evo and the brave Bolivian people. Our America cannot tolerate so much abuse," Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said on Twitter.

"And then they talk to us about holding European Union-Latin American summits?"

"This is an attack against President Morales's life," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said.

Cuba's foreign ministry called the measure taken against Morales "an unacceptable, unfounded and arbitrary act that offends all of Latin America and the Caribbean."

The Bolivian presidential palace said Morales would be back home Wednesday and protest rallies were already planned outside the embassies of the United States, France, Portugal and Italy.