China problem for balloonists

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The Independent Online
A three-nation European team aiming to be the first balloonists to fly round the world non-stop may be forced to quit if China does not let them cross over its territory.

As the trio aboard the Breitling Orbiter-2 drifted slowly across southern Afghanistan towards Pakistan, intense diplomatic and private efforts were under way to get a Chinese go-ahead.

"It all depends on the Chinese now," said a spokesman for the flight, now in its sixth day since lift-off from the Swiss Alps.

Although controllers were last night plotting alternative routes taking the Orbiter across India and south-east Asia, the team were known to be unhappy about flying over dense forest areas.