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Argentina to surrender grounded Venezuela plane to US

An Argentine court has approved the transfer of a grounded Venezuelan plane to US authorities, the justice ministry said Wednesday, in a long-running judicial and diplomatic saga also involving Iran. The Boeing 747 cargo plane owned by Venezuelan company Emtrasur has been held in Argentina since landing there in June 2022 from Mexico with a shipment of auto parts, after having tried unsuccessfully to enter Uruguay. The 19-member crew was comprised of Venezuelans and Iranians — one of whom the United States suspected had links to the Al Quds Force, a group of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards classified as a terrorist organization by the United States. All the crew were initially detained but later freed. The plane was sold to Emtrasur, a subsidiary of state airline Conviasa, by Iran’s Mahan Air in October 2021 in what the US said contravened its sanctions against both countries. Caracas and Tehran have protested US attempts to seize the plane, and asked Argentina for backing. On Wednesday, Judge Federico Villena ordered it be surrendered to the United States, the justice ministry told AFP, in a move Venezuela denounced as “robbery.”

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