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U.S. Anti-Drug Flights Denied Permission To Fly Over Bolivia

Bolivian President Evo Morales has rejected a request from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for conducting a narcotic surveillance flight over Bolivia, reported the country's state media on Friday.

"Two days ago I received a letter asking a government institution for permission to fly over national territory," the agency quoted Morales as saying. "I want to say publicly to our authorities: They are not authorized to give permission so that the DEA can fly over Bolivian territory."

Bolivia is currently the world's third largest producer of coca. Though it is the main ingredient in the making of cocaine, Bolivian Indians regularly chew the Coca plant's leaves for its medical properties.

The rejection of U.S. narcotic surveillance flight is latest in the stand off between Morales and the U.S. administration after Washington last month added Bolivia to a list of countries that it said had failed in their counter-narcotics obligations.

Soon after the Bolivia's inclusion in the list, Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador accusing him of supporting the opposition protests over Morales' proposed socialist reforms. Washington denied the allegation and responded promptly by expelling the Bolivian ambassador to the United States.

Morales is the first elected indigenous leader of Bolivia and his proposed socialist reforms, including presidential re-election and distribution of more land and oil revenues to the country's poor indigenous majority, are opposed by the right-wing governors in five of Bolivia's energy-rich regions, who are demanding greater autonomy and greater control over revenues of natural gas in their areas.

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