Iran’s no delays Merkel’s India-bound plane, Germany upset (Second Lead, changing dateline)

June 1st, 2011 - 12:58 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 31 (IANS) Iran briefly refused German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plane permission to fly over its territory on her way to New Delhi Tuesday morning, forcing the aircraft to circle over Turkey for over two hours.

Konrad Adenauer, as the chancellor’s plane is named, had to circle over the Turkish-Iranian border region for more than two hours before the issue was sorted out. The plane was finally allowed to continue on its way at the last minute, shortly before it would have had to land in Turkey due to a fuel crunch.

“I’m very glad I arrived here safely in India,” Merkel said a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“We have never experienced anything like this before,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Siebert.

The incident is threatening to trigger a diplomatic row as German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle summoned Iran’s ambassador to Germany. Germany, along with other Western powers and the US, has been pressuring Iran over it nuclear programme.

“Hindering the German chancellor’s passage over Iran is absolutely unacceptable. It shows a lack of respect towards Germany that we will not accept,” Westerwelle said.

“That is why I have summoned the Iranian ambassador. We shall make it very plain that such a breach of international conventions will in no way be tolerated by Germany.”

A second plane with four German ministers on board, however, was not delayed.

Iran, however, denied that the incident was a deliberate one and attributed it to a technical issue.

“The delay in giving clearance to her flight was only due to a technical problem which was resolved quickly and the flight was able to continue its journey,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast.

During Merkel’s day-long visit Tuesday, India and Germany signed four agreements and the German chancellor was conferred the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding at a function in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. She will leave for Singapore Wednesday morning.

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