Snowden Onboard? Rumors Force Landing of Plane

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(Photo Credit: The Guardian)

By Catherine E. Shoichet

CNN

(CNN) — Bolivian officials say an official aircraft carrying President Evo Morales had to land in Austria on Tuesday after false rumors circulated that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden was onboard.

Portuguese and French authorities wouldn’t let the plane land in their territories, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca told reporters.

“We are told that there were some unfounded suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on the plane,” Choquehuanca said. “We do not know who has invented this lie. Someone who wants to harm our country. This information that has been circulated is malicious information to harm this country.”

The plane had been flying from Moscow back to Bolivia. The foreign minister said authorities from the South American country are investigating the source of the false rumors about Snowden. Bolivia’s air travel rights were violated, he said.

“Portugal owes us an explanation. France owes us an explanation. … The president’s life was put at risk,” Choquehuanca said.

Morales had been in Russia for a conference of gas-exporting countries, where he told the Russia Today news network that he would be willing to consider asylum for Snowden.

But Bolivian officials stressed that accusations that an official aircraft would harbor Snowden were baseless.

“We cannot lie to the international community by carrying ghost passengers,” Choquehuanca said.

CNN’s Rafael Romo and Matt Smith contributed to this report.