Gaddafi sends balloonist's bid for world record off course

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The Independent Online
The attempt by the American millionaire Steve Fossett to fly a balloon around the world were punctured yesterday by the refusal of the Libyan authorities to allow his to fly over the country.

He will now have to take a longer route around the southern tip of country which is led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The detour which is almost certain to force him to land before he completes his circumnavigation.

"He's not giving up. He's going to continue," said a spokeswoman at the ground control in Loyola University, Chicago, last night.

Mr Fossett's is the third attempt in a fortnight to be first to circle the world by balloon. The first, by a team including Richard Branson, failed just 19 hours after taking off in Morocco. The second ended after six hours.

Bo Kemper, the project manager at the ground control, said that the extra fuel necessary will mean that the balloon would probably have to put down in India. The consolation, he said, was that Mr Fossett will probably set a solo endurance record by balloon.

His attempt is a distinctly low-profile one compared to those of the previous two failures: he is flying alone, rather than in a team, and his balloon is smaller and flying at a lower height.

"The team and Steve are very disappointed." Mr Kemper said. "But it has been an unbelievably successful trip. The equipment worked 100 per cent. The weather was working 100 per cent. The only thing that didn't work was political."