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Cargo plane with Iranian crew stranded in Argentina

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A jumbo jet-sized mystery has landed in the lap of Argentine officials, who are trying to figure out what to do with a Venezuelan-owned Boeing 747 cargo plane with a load of auto parts and an unusually large crew of 17, including at least five Iranians.

The plane operated by the Venezuelan public freight company Emtrasur has been stuck since June 6 at the main international airport in Buenos Aires, unable to take off due to US sanctions against Iran. and suspicions about his crew.

Security Minister Aníbal Fernández said on Monday that the government and judicial authorities were studying the situation.

He said foreign intelligence agencies “had informed that part of the crew belonged to companies linked to the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards of Iran”, which is officially listed as a terrorist organization by the US government. since 2007.

He also said the plane’s operators reported fewer crew members than were actually on board – an unusually large contingent for a cargo plane. He was transporting parts for an automobile assembly plant, although he did not specify which one.

Until it was sold to Emtrasur about a year ago, the plane belonged to Mahan Air of Iran, a line that the US government sanctioned for allegedly aiding the Quds Force and terrorist activities. Over the years, many foreign companies have been sanctioned for doing business with Mahan.

A Mahan Air spokesman, Hossein Zolanvari, earlier told state news agency IRNA that his company sold the Boeing to a Venezuelan company about a year ago.

“The mention of Mahan Air in relation to the seized aircraft was for political purposes,” he said. He added that the crew of the plane had no connection with Mahan Air.

The plane’s crew members were accommodated in a hotel and Fernandez said Venezuelans are free to leave if they wish, while Iranians can move around the capital.

Fernandez said the plane stopped in Paraguay in May. On June 6, he was heading for Ezeiza airport, in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, but weather conditions forced him to stop in the city of Cordoba before finally reaching the Argentine capital, where he caught the attention of immigration authorities, who confiscated the crew’s luggage. passports.

Emtrasur began flying this year, operating from the Venezuelan military’s Libertador Air Base.

Flight tracking services show the plane had also made stopovers in previous months in Mexico and Venezuela.

Argentina itself has suffered from terrorist attacks that authorities blame on Iran, including a 1992 explosion at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and another against a Jewish organization in 1994. Argentina asks the arrest of several Iranian officials, although Iran denies any involvement.

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Post expires at 7:20pm on Thursday June 23rd, 2022