Latin American leaders slammed European governments for diverting Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane on rumours it was carrying a wanted former US spy agency contractor, and announced an emergency summit in a new diplomatic twist to the Edward Snowden saga.
Heads of state from countries including Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay were planning to gather in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba in a show of solidarity. The detour was a "humiliation" for the region, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said.
Morales, who was greeted by cheering supporters throwing flowers and waving flags when he arrived at the La Paz airport, blamed his delay on the US and its "servants" in Europe whom he said are trying to "intimidate the people and social groups".
"This is an open provocation to the continent, not just the president," Morales said.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was "surprised and amazed" that European governments obstructed Morales' travel after they condemned the US over Snowden's allegations that it was spying on allies.
Such behaviour puts at risk dialogue between South America and Europe, she said.
Failure to allow Morales' plane to fly through airspace of the European countries threatened the security of the people on board, Russia said. The actions of authorities in France, Spain and Portugal was "hardly friendly," Russia's foreign ministry said.
The international wrangle linked to Snowden took a further twist yesterday when a British private surveillance company denied that it was behind the bugging of the embassy, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been living for over a year.
WikiLeaks is trying to assist Snowden, who is believed to be stranded at an airport in Moscow and seeking asylum in a variety of countries including Ecuador.
Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on Wednesday made the allegation against the Surveillance Group.
The Surveillance Group's chief executive Timothy Young rejected Patino's allegation as "completely untrue".
"The Surveillance Group does not and has never been engaged in any activities of this nature," Young said.
Patino described the Surveillance Group as "one of the biggest private investigation and undercover surveillance companies in the United Kingdom".
On its website, the company says its clients include British law enforcement, other government bodies and financial institutions.
Surveillance experts have described the bugging device that Ecuador says was hidden behind a plug socket in its London embassy as rudimentary and unlikely to have been the work of the British police or security services.
Yesterday, France said it was rejecting a request for political asylum from Snowden, the Interior Ministry said in a statement in Paris.
The Guardian, Reuters, Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse