Germany rejects Iran's "wrong number" explanation for Merkel snub
The German government on Wednesday rejected Iran's claim that Chancellor Angela Merkel's pilot was to blame for a two-hour holdup on her flight to India this week, DPA reported.
Iran ordered the chancellor's luxury A340 jet out of its airspace on Tuesday, forcing the pilot to circle over Turkey, before granting overflight permission. Merkel arrived two hours late for an official visit to India.
Iran's ambassador to Berlin, Ali Reza Sheikh Attar, later claimed the air force pilot had quoted the wrong secret number to air traffic controllers in Tehran.
But Defence Ministry spokesman in Berlin said the pilot went by the book, quoting the secret "diplo clearance number," 5526/101/119 provided by Iran on April 27 when seeking to enter Iranian airspace.
"All the rules were correctly observed, according to the spokesman.
In Teheran, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbat Salehi insisted to reporters there had been no deliberate insult to Merkel and that the incident arose from a "technical error" by the German pilot.
In New Delhi, Merkel said, "I've never experienced anything like it," while the German Foreign Ministry summoned Attar to explain. He later told a newspaper later that Teheran had been "very surprised" at German perceptions of a deliberate snub.