Authorities in Austria confirmed that the plane was searched and Snowden, the 30-year-old former government contractor, was not on the flight, the Associated Press reported. There was no indication that he had left Moscow, where he has been in diplomatic limbo for more than a week.
Choquehuanca said that Morales’s plane was an hour from French airspace when it was told it could not enter. “Portugal has to explain to us,” he said. “France has to explain to us why they canceled” flight authorization.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that two officials with the French Foreign Ministry said that Morales’s plane had authorization to fly over France. They would not comment on why Bolivian officials said otherwise. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be publicly named, according to ministry policy.
The wire service, citing an unnamed official in Vienna, reported that Morales’s aircraft asked controllers at the Vienna airport for permission to land because it needed more fuel to continue on its journey.
The aircraft took off from Vienna shortly before noon Wednesday, AP reported. Spain said the plane would be allowed to refuel in the Canary Islands, although a foreign ministry official declined to comment on a claim by Bolivia that the permission was contingent on allowing authorities to search the plane, the wire service said.
The White House, CIA and State Department all declined to comment on the situation involving the Bolivian aircraft. But the latest twist seemed to signal that U.S. authorities have been able to marshal support from European countries in what has been a feverish pursuit of the former National Security Agency contractor. It also underscored how Snowden has settled still deeper into isolation as one country after another has rejected his appeals for asylum since his disclosure of a trove of highly secret documents.
But the diverting of Morales’s plane is sure to fan anger against the United States, which is trying to play down new revelations of spying against European allies while trying to win support to corral Snowden even from countries such as Russia, Bolivia and Venezuela, which are sharply at odds with the Obama administration.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua called the incident over Austria “an attempt on Evo Morales’s life.” He said it was a sign of how far “the empire” — a reference to the United States — and its “lackeys” would go “to hunt down a young man who has only said the truth.”