Bolivia's Morales home after trip delayed by Snowden affair

Bolivian President Evo Morales denounced European countries as lackeys of America, arriving home late Wednesday on a journey interrupted after suspicions US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was traveling with him.

His plane touched down near La Paz almost 17 hours after leaving Vienna, an AFP reporter observed. It had had to land in the Austrian capital after several European nations denied it overfly rights on the flight back from Moscow.

"Some countries of Europe have to free themselves from the US empire," Morales told a cheering crowd at the airport.

"They are not going to frighten us, because we are a people with dignity and sovereignty," he added, as his supporters carried flowers, threw confetti and waved national flags.

Bolivia has accused the United States of pressuring European countries to keep him from traveling home over unfounded suspicions that Snowden was traveling with him.

It is Snowden who has leaked embarrassing details of US phone and Internet surveillance programs to the world.

Snowden is currently holed up at a Moscow airport looking for a country that will give him safe haven. Morales had been in Moscow attending an energy conference.

Bolivia is one of more than 20 countries Snowden has asked for asylum and during his stay in the Russian capital, Morales said his country would be willing to study the request.

When the president started for home late Tuesday, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal initially denied his plane the right to fly through their air space amid concerns Snowden was on his plane.

Snowden was not on his plane, as Austrian officials confirmed early Wednesday after being allowd to search the Bolivian president's aircraft.

Once the European countries lifted their objections, Morales traveled home via Spain and Brazil, where it made refueling stops.

Bolivia has likened the way its president was treated to a kidnapping and other Latin American countries have also expressed outrage.

In the streets of the Bolivian capital La Paz on Wednesday, protesters were burning French flags.