Bolivia 'to file UN complaint' over European airspace blockade

GENEVA (AFP) - Bolivia will file a complaint to UN chief Ban Ki-moon over a move by several European countries to block President Evo Morales's plane from flying over their airspace, the Latin American nation's envoy said on Wednesday.

"The decisions of these countries have violated international law... We are already making procedures to denounce this to the UN secretary general," Bolivia's ambassador to the UN Sacha Llorenti told reporters in Geneva.

Bolivia said France, Spain, Portugal and Italy initially denied Morales's plane overflight rights, over suspicion that fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was on board.

Morales's plane has now left Vienna after a stopover of more than 12 hours and was on its way to the Spanish Canary Island of Las Palmas for servicing before continuing on to Bolivia.

Llorenti said the diversion constituted an "act of aggression" against Bolivia, was tantamount to "kidnapping" Morales and may cause "irreparable damage" to diplomatic relations.

"Bolivia not only condemns these acts, but will take all international legal steps so this is not overlooked," he said, declining to be drawn on what steps his country would take.

The plane originally departed from Moscow - where Morales had been on an official visit and where Snowden is holed up at an airport transit area - before it was forced to land in Vienna en route to Bolivia.

"This has put the life of the president, his delegation, and the crew of the plane in danger," said Llorenti.

"We have no doubt that it was an order from the White House. We have no doubt. For no reason whatsoever a diplomatic plane with a president in that plane should be diverted from its route and forced to land in another country."

Bolivia is among 21 countries where Snowden's supporters say he is seeking asylum, although Llorenti said no application had been received yet.

Llorenti mocked the countries that barred the jet, noting they were also among the most vocal critics of the US snooping on European countries exposed by Snowden.

"They are now tools of the United States... In the 19th century, the colonies were in Latin America, and now we see the colonies are in some countries of Europe."