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Venezuela says US airline ban depends on talks

Written by: Staff

Caracas (Venezuela), Mar 25: Venezuela has said it could suspend a threat to curtail US airline flights depending on the ''atmosphere'' at talks on Monday with US aviation authorities in Caracas.

The statement from Venezuela's government came in response to the US ambassador who said on Thursday that Venezuela had already agreed to suspend the ban threat to hold talks with a visiting US Federal Aviation Administration team.

Venezuela warned in February it would restrict or ban flights by AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines from March 30 if the FAA did not lift decade-old restrictions on Venezuelan airlines flying to US airports.

''Given that the FAA has shown a willingness to attend a meeting before March 30, Venezuela has accepted those talks and could suspend the measures depending on the atmosphere of the meeting,'' Infrastructure Minister Ramon Carrizalez, who oversees aviation issues, said in a statement yesterday.

The airline spat has been tinted by political fighting as Washington and the government of President Hugo Chavez clash over his socialist revolutionary message for South America and his close alliances with US foes Cuba and Iran.

Shortly before the aviation dispute, Chavez expelled a US military attache he accused of spying on Venezuela's armed forces and Washington responded with a tit-for-tat measure to expel a Venezuelan diplomat.

Caracas has fought for about a decade to get the FAA to reverse its 1995 ruling that the South American country had failed to comply fully with International Civil Aviation Organization safety standards.

Venezuela currently has an FAA category 2 rating, which restricts Venezuelan airline flight services to US airports.

Caracas says it has invested heavily and long since corrected any safety concerns in its aviation system.


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