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European balloonists put down safely in a Burmese rice paddy

The hot air balloon Breitling Orbiter 2, which abandoned its round-the-world journey attempt but set two other flying records, landed safely Saturday morning in Burma.

The balloon landed safely about 9:26 a.m local time (7:56 p.m. MST Friday evening) at the village of Okpo, about 90 miles north of the Burmese capital Yangon, Burmese officials said.The landing took place in a rice paddy field about a mile from a main road, they said.

The crew of the Breitling Orbiter 2 achieved the longest-ever nonstop unrefueled flight Friday as their balloon floated toward Burma, now called Myanmar, from India on the final leg of its journey from the Swiss Alps.

The team's bid to be the first to circle the world was abandoned Wednesday because China initially refused to let the balloon enter its airspace.

"For us the goal was really to fly around the world, but it is great to get a second world record," spokesman Gerard Sermier said.

China belatedly gave the team the go-ahead Thursday to fly through its airspace, but by then the balloon had already changed course, missing its chance to pick up the jet-stream winds needed to propel it across the Pacific.

From Burma, crew members Bertrand Piccard, Wim Verstraeten and Andy Elson were to be flown Sunday to Geneva for a celebration party.