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Delta Airlines pilot refuses to fly Israeli Deputy FM Melchiore

By The Associated Press
August 11, 2002

CINCINNATI - A Delta Air Lines subsidiary refused to fly Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior from Cincinnati because the pilot thought Melchior posed a security risk, the daily Yediot Aharonot reported Sunday.

Melchior, who was being escorted by State Department officials for Friday's flight, told the radio that he waited on a plane for more than an hour before the pilot evacuated it, saying there was a security risk.

When Melchior disembarked, he said he was told he could not get back on the plane. "The security officials and the company all put pressure on him, and there were negotiations," Melchior told Israel Radio. "But the pilot is sovereign on his aircraft, and he is empowered to make such a decision, and he did it in spite of all the pressure from the company and security officials."

He said he flew out on another Delta plane about a half-hour later.

The Israeli embassy in Washington has taken the matter up with the State Department, Melchior said.

This is the third time an Israeli official has been pulled from a flight because of a pilot's sense of a security risk, the radio reported. The others reportedly were Alon Pinkas, the consul general in New York, and a bodyguard of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

He deplored the "singling out of Israeli diplomats... and removing them from a plane in such a manner."

Atlanta-based Delta, which has a hub in Cincinnati, is the third-biggest U.S. carrier. A message seeking comment was left early Sunday morning at the Delta corporate communications office.