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Venezuela: U.S. denied airspace permission to presidential plane

By Catherine E. Shoichet and Elise Labott, CNN
September 20, 2013 -- Updated 1036 GMT (1836 HKT)
Venezuelan acting president Nicolas Maduro clenches his fist after he was sworn in, in Caracas, on March 8, 2013.
Venezuelan acting president Nicolas Maduro clenches his fist after he was sworn in, in Caracas, on March 8, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A State Department official says the plane was approved to clear U.S. airspace
  • Venezuelan officials say the U.S. denied airspace permission to their presidential plane
  • Venezuela's president says the U.S. also denied U.N. delegation visas
  • Maduro calls the move a "serious offense"

(CNN) -- Venezuela accused the United States on Thursday of denying President Nicolas Maduro's plane permission to enter U.S. airspace -- a claim that a State Department official denied.

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said U.S. officials have blocked plans for Maduro's presidential plane to fly through Puerto Rican airspace on the way to China.

He described the move as an aggression and called for an explanation from the U.S. State Department.

A senior State Department official told CNN that Jaua's claim was untrue, saying that the Venezuelans have, in fact, been approved to clear U.S. airspace.

In remarks broadcast on state television, Maduro called the situation "a serious offense."

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The Venezuelan president vowed to take action, adding that the United States had also denied visas for several members of his country's delegation scheduled to attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

"If I have to take diplomatic measures against the U.S. government, I will take them to the most drastic level if it is necessary, but I am not going to accept any type of aggression," he said.

The State Department official also called the visa issue untrue, saying the United States had approved them.

Maduro is scheduled to travel to China on Saturday. Jaua said officials were evaluating alternate routes so that the trip could continue as scheduled.

Maduro accused U.S. officials of being nervous about his country's growing relationship with China.

"The United States government is not going to stop our trip," Maduro said.

U.S. officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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