Iran denies Bulgaria PM entry into airspace en route to Saudi Arabia

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria said Wednesday that an aircraft taking its prime minister and former king to Saudi Arabia was denied permission by Iran to enter its airspace, forcing them to fly via Iraq.

“The refusal is inexplicable,” Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva was quoted by Bulgarian media as saying from Riyadh a day after the incident.

She said Iran’s ambassador in Sofia has been summoned for an explanation. Iran had initially given the flight permission before it took off, she said.

The plane was carrying former king Simeon Saxe Coburg, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Zaharieva and four other ministers.

It was the first visit by a Bulgarian prime minister to Saudi Arabia since the former communist country, now a member of the European Union, and the kingdom established relations 20 years ago.

Borisov was due to be received on Wednesday by King Salman and by the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, under whom relations with Iran have deteriorated dramatically.

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