Spain urges calm in row over Bolivian leader's plane

MADRID (AFP) - Spain called for calm Friday in a diplomatic row ignited when Bolivian President Evo Morales's plane was diverted because of suspicions that fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was aboard.

"We have to try somehow to calm things down, relax the mood, and resume relations," Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo said in an interview with public television.

Bolivia reacted furiously after Mr Morales, flying home from Moscow on Tuesday, had to land in Vienna, accusing several European nations of denying his jet overfly rights.

Spain's foreign minister denied, however, that his country closed its airspace to the Bolivian leader's plane, which resumed its journey on Wednesday and refuelled in Las Palmas on the Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands.

"What Spain said was that in no case was it going to restrict its airspace and that it would keep its authorisation in force so the plane could land and refuel in Las Palmas," Mr Margallo said.

Bolivia accused France, Portugal, Italy and Spain of denying flyover rights because they suspected the plane was carrying Mr Snowden, who is seeking to avoid US espionage charges after leaking embarrassing details of a vast US phone and Internet surveillance programme.

The 30-year-old is believed to be holed up at a Moscow airport looking for a country that will give him safe haven.

Bolivia is one of 21 countries Snowden has asked for asylum. Mr Morales said earlier this week that his country would be willing to study the request.

The president has threatened to close the US embassy in Bolivia over the jet diversion, which he said was the result of Washington putting pressure on European nations.

Bolivia's Latin American allies have also responded with outrage to the incident.