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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Merkel lands in India after plane delayed for hours by Iran

German Chancellor's plane forced to circle over Turkey for two hours after Iran temporarily suspends flyover rights.

Iran temporarily withdrew flyover rights on Tuesday for a plane carrying German Chancellor Angela Merkel to India, forcing it to circle over Turkey for almost two hours before restoring the rights.

We have never experienced anything like this before," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said. He declined to criticize Iran but said the incident was "unusual to say the

A Reuters journalist travelling with Merkel said Iran withdrew the rights, which had been granted previously, just as the plane entered Iranian air space.

After more than an hour of negotiations, involving Turkish authorities and Germany's foreign ministry, the plane was allowed to resume its flight path over Iran to New Delhi.

Officials in the German delegation travelling with Merkel attributed the incident to "coordination problems". The plane, carrying a large group of industry representatives and reporters, landed two hours late.

A second government plane with German ministers onboard reached India without any problems. Merkel and members of her cabinet are due to meet senior members of the Indian government on Tuesday in the first German-Indian government consultations.

"An unusual start to the India trip," Seibert wrote on his Twitter account. "Iran temporarily denied flyover rights for the Chancellor's plane. A late landing in Delhi."

The European Union last week significantly extended its sanctions against Iran in a sign of mounting frustration at a lack of progress in nuclear talks with Tehran.

The incident comes as Iranian officials meet their Indian counterparts for a second day to try to resolve an impasse over payments for oil sales worth about 17 billions dollar a year.

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