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U.N. aviation body discusses call to probe Belarus airliner grounding

OTTAWA, May 27 (Reuters) - The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization on Thursday met to discuss Ireland’s demand for an impartial probe into the forced landing of a Ryanair jet by Belarus earlier this week.

ICAO’s 36-nation governing council was due to end its meeting at 1 pm ET (1700 GMT) but might not have an agreed statement ready until Friday, spokesman Anthony Philbin said by email. The council has limited powers of investigation.

Belarus scrambled a fighter jet and used a false bomb alert to divert the flight to Minsk and detain a dissident Belarusian journalist. The plane had been traveling from Athens to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

The incident sparked international outrage and calls for sanctions against Belarus. Minsk accused the West of using the episode to wage “hybrid war.”

Irish Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said Dublin wanted ICAO to use Article 55e of its Convention, which allows an investigation into avoidable obstacles to the development of international navigation.

“We need a full probe,” he told reporters.

Montreal-based ICAO cannot impose binding rules on governments but wields clout through its safety and security standards, which are approved by its 192 member states.

“We wish to remind those who demanded we take punitive action against that country that our agency was never assigned that type of role or capability,” ICAO tweeted on Wednesday.

ICAO said officials from Belarus, Ireland, Lithuania, and Poland would also be present at the governing council meeting to underscore their priorities and concerns. (Additional reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris, Conor Humphries in Dublin, Allison Martell in Toronto and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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