U.S. authorities detain Venezuelan foreign minister

Sunday, September 24, 2006

NEW YORK -- Venezuela's foreign minister said he was illegally detained for 90 minutes at a New York airport Saturday by U.S. authorities whom he accused of treating him abusively and attempting to frisk him.

U.S. and U.N. officials called the incident regrettable but said Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro had been identified for "secondary screening," a security check that can kick in when a passenger arrives without a ticket.

"We were the object of an illegal detention by the U.S. government," Maduro told reporters at Venezuela's mission to the United Nations. "We were detained during an hour and a half, threatened by police of being beaten."

Maduro said the authorities at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport at one point ordered him and other officials to spread their arms and legs and be frisked, but he said they forcefully refused.

He said his passport and ticket were retained for a time, and finally given back to him. But he said the incident prevented him from traveling home Saturday.

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