February 25, 2007 / 3:31 AM / 13 years ago

Cheney plane leaves Singapore after minor repairs

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney, who visited Asia-Pacific allies Japan and Australia last week, left Singapore on Sunday afternoon after his plane underwent minor repairs and refueled.

The tail fin of Air Force Two is seen through the trees at a military airport in Singapore February 25, 2007. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

“This was the pre-planned, scheduled fuel stop,” said Cheney’s spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride. “We were not diverted,” she added, following a comment by Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard that Cheney’s plane had been diverted to Singapore because of a problem.

McBride said there had been an issue with the electricity on the plane. Because of that, “a call was placed back to Sydney with the status”, she said, adding the electrical problem did not cut off Cheney’s ability to communicate with the rest of the world.

The plane, which left Sydney’s international airport at about 9 a.m. on Sunday (5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT) Saturday), arrived at Singapore’s Paya Lebar air base at about 2 p.m. Singapore time (0600 GMT), and took off again nearly two hours later.

Cheney did not get off the plane in Singapore.

“The small mechanical problem has been fixed,” a U.S. embassy spokeswoman in Singapore said.

The problem had posed no safety issues and the aircraft was fine, the White House said earlier.

Cheney had been visiting Australia as part of a trip to thank Washington’s Iraq war allies Japan and Australia.

Concern about the flight first arose after Cheney’s plane had stopped en route to the runway. A mobile stairway was sent out to the plane but a door in the plane opened and an unidentified figure appeared in the hatchway and waved the stairway off, a Reuters photographer said.

The door was then closed and the plane proceeded to the runway and took off.

McBride said the incident was “absolutely unrelated” to the electrical issue, adding the plane stopped because a passenger had alerted officials an item of luggage had been left in a vehicle. It was decided the item should be sent on another plane.

Cheney arrived in Sydney late on Thursday. Anti-war protesters who accuse him of being one of the main architects of the Iraq war scuffled briefly with police on Thursday and Friday.

A total of 11 people were arrested but his visit was otherwise uneventful.

Additional reporting by Will Burgess and Paul Tait in Sydney; and Koh Gui Qing in Singapore

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