Iran Protests Turkey's Grounding of Official Plane

Iran Wednesday protested to Turkey after a plane carrying ministers and other top officials was held for several hours at Istanbul airport for not having permission to fly across Turkish airspace, the IRNA news agency said.

The plane, carrying Industry Minister Ali-Reza Tahmasebi and other members of a delegation that accompanied President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a trip to Senegal, Cuba and Venezuela, made an unscheduled landing at midnight.

It was only able to take off for Tehran at 10:15 am (0715 GMT) after what officials described as a "misunderstanding" was cleared up.

"Following the mandatory landing, the Turkish ambassador has been summoned to the Iranian foreign ministry," Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African affairs Mohammad-Reza Bagheri, one of the passengers, told IRNA.

Speaking to the agency when the plane was grounded on the tarmac, he insisted that the "Iranian plane did have permission."

Tahmasebi described Turkey's move as an "obvious insult" to Iranian people.

A source at Istanbul airport told AFP the plane had been held at the airport over a "problem of authorisation" which was overcome after official prodecures and the plane was able to leave.

A Turkish diplomat, who did not wish to be named, said that the plane had entered Turkish airspace without authorisation and had asked to land in Istanbul to refuel, insisting the authorities had not forced it to land.

IRNA said the deputy governor general of Istanbul had apologised to Bagheri for the "misunderstanding and misinterpretation."

The Boeing 707 airplane was also carrying two members of parliament, foreign ministry advisors and reporters.

The delegation was already heading home prematurely after the United States refused to grant them visas to accompany Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly summit meeting that started on Tuesday.

Source: AFP

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