Anger as Iran blocks Merkel's flight

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The Independent Online

Germany and Iran were embroiled in a diplomatic row yesterday after Iran closed its airspace to the Chancellor Angela Merkel's plane as it flew to India, delaying her arrival there on an official visit.

Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin to protest against "the breach of international protocol", said the Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. "Iran's move to hinder the Chancellor's trip is absolutely unacceptable," he said. "This is a lack of respect for Germany that we won't accept."

Iran had granted overflight permission to Ms Merkel's plane before it left Berlin, but that was revoked after the Chancellor was airborne, said the German government's press office. Ms Merkel's plane was forced to circle over Turkey for about two hours en route to India, said a German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert. He called it a violation of normal diplomatic privilege. Iran did not say why the permission was revoked, and a second plane carrying several of Ms Merkel's ministers had no trouble passing across Iranian airspace on the way to India.

Germany is one of the six nations negotiating with Iran over its nuclear programme. Berlin also supports sanctions against Iran, and a Germany-based Iranian bank was recently added to an EU sanctions list. Iran is suspected of covertly developing nuclear weapons, which it denies.

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