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Israel hails grounding of Argentine plane with Iranian crew

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BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Israel on Thursday praised Argentina for detaining a Venezuelan plane that included an Iranian crew, saying the flight shows Tehran is trying to expand its influence in South America.

Washington also said it was closely following the investigation into the Boeing 747, which was loaded with auto parts and raised questions because its 19 crew members are an unusually high number for a cargo plane.

In a statement, the Israeli embassy hailed the “rapid action” of the Argentine authorities who “identified in real time the potential threat” posed by the plane, which has been grounded since June 6 at the airport. Argentina’s main airport near Buenos Aires.

Israel “is particularly concerned” about Iranian airlines “dedicated to arms trafficking and the transfer of people and equipment for the Al-Quds Force, which are subject to sanctions by the United States for their involvement in terrorist activities,” the embassy said.

“Recent events provide evidence of repeated attempts by the Islamic Republic of Iran, through the Revolutionary Guards and the Al-Quds Force, to continue to consolidate its influence in the world, including in South America. , as a basis for terrorist actions on the continent,” he added. the embassy added.

The top US diplomat in Argentina also commented on the case.

“We follow with great interest the judicial and police investigations into the crew and the plane and thank the investigative efforts of the Argentine authorities to clarify the situation,” said US Ambassador Marc Stanley in a statement shared with the media. local.

Argentinian authorities have seized the passports of the five Iranians and 14 Venezuelan crew members of the plane, which is operated by Venezuelan state-owned company Embrasur, a subsidiary of Conviasa, which is subject to US sanctions.

Before being sold to Embrasur a year ago, the plane belonged to Mahan Air of Iran, which the US government has sanctioned for allegedly aiding the Quds Force and terrorist activities.

Law enforcement searched the hotel where the crew members were staying on Tuesday under the orders of Federal Judge Federico Villena, who is investigating the crew.

Argentinian authorities say they found no irregularities in the crew.

The plane reportedly loaded auto parts in Mexico and stopped in Venezuela before arriving in Argentina.

The large crew had previously aroused suspicion in Paraguay, where the plane landed last month in Ciudad del Este, near the Argentinian and Brazilian borders, Paraguay’s Interior Minister Federico González told an interview on Tuesday. local radio station. He said the plane was there May 13-16,

González said Paraguay alerted intelligence agencies in the region about the plane and its crew.

Argentina has suffered two terrorist attacks in its capital that forensic investigators have blamed on Iran – a 1992 explosion at the Israeli embassy and a deadly attack on a Jewish organization in 1994. Iran has denied any involvement.

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