Bolivia's leader threatens to close United States embassy

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia - Bolivia's President threatened on Thursday to close the United States (US) embassy as leftist Latin American leaders joined him in blasting Europe and the US after his plane was rerouted amid suspicions US fugitive Edward Snowden was aboard.

President Evo Morales, who has suggested the US pressured European nations to deny him their airspace, warned he would "study, if necessary, closing the US embassy in Bolivia".

"We don't need a US embassy in Bolivia," he said. "My hand would not shake to close the US embassy. We have dignity, sovereignty. Without the United States, we are better politically, democratically."

Mr Morales arrived home late on Wednesday after a long layover in Vienna, saying his plane was diverted there because it was barred from flying over four European nations, sparking outrage among Latin American leaders.

The Bolivian leader's air odyssey began hours after Mr Morales declared in Moscow he would be willing to consider an asylum application from Mr Snowden, who is seeking sanctuary in several Latin American nations to evade US espionage charges.

In a show of support, Presidents Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Desi Bouterse of Suriname met with Mr Morales in the central city of Cochabamba.

At a rally before the meeting, Mr Maduro claimed that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had ordered France, Portugal, Italy and Spain to deny access to Mr Morales's plane on Tuesday.

"A minister of one of these European governments personally told us by telephone that they were going to apologize because they were surprised, and that those who gave the order to aviation authorities in this country ... were the CIA," he said.

After the meeting, the leaders issued a statement calling on the European governments to publicly apologize "in relation to the serious incidents that occurred," but Mr Morales said earlier that apologies were not enough.

Mr Correa said the leaders would "take decisions and show that we won't accept this sort of humiliation against any country of (Latin) America."

"Imagine if this happened to a European head of state, if this had happened to the president of the United States. It probably would have been a casus belli, a case for war," he said. "They think they can attack, crush, destroy international law."

Mr Correa had called for a larger summit gathering leaders of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), but the presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Peru were not present, even though they too condemned the incident.

The US consulate's walls in the city of Santa Cruz were sprayed with red graffiti, one reading "Gringos Obama out," while some 100 protesters burned flags and threw rocks at the French embassy in La Paz late Wednesday.

Mr Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, is in legal limbo in a Moscow airport, trying to escape US justice after leaking details of a vast US phone and Internet surveillance program.