TEHRAN -- Iran said
Monday that a Venezuelan airplane grounded in Argentina is part of a “propaganda” campaign against Tehran, amid tensions with Western countries over negotiations to revive a 2015 nuclear deal.
The Venezuelan Boeing 747 cargo plane, reportedly carrying car parts and with 14 Venezuelan and five Iranian crew members, has been held in Argentina’s Ezeiza airport after the authorities questioned its reasons for landing last week.
The grounding came days before Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Tehran on Saturday, where Iran and Venezuela signed a 20-year deal on cooperation between the allies that are both subject to U.S. sanctions.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters on Monday that the incident was part of efforts aimed to “cause a feeling of insecurity.”
The plane was sold by Iran’s Mahan Air to a Venezuelan company last year, he said, noting that “its crew members are not Iranians only” but included others of different nationalities.
“These recent weeks are filled with propaganda, are full of psychological operations, these wars of words that want to infiltrate the minds and composure of the people... this news is one of those,” Khatibzadeh said.
On Sunday, Argentinian authorities said no personnel had been detained and that the crew had been accommodated in hotels with temporary residence permits.
The Iranians’ passports were taken, but Argentinian authorities said they would be returned if they left the country on a scheduled flight while investigations are ongoing.
The incident came as a resolution was adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors against Iran after the agency’s director Rafael Grossi paid a controversial visit to Occupied Palestine.
Talks in the Austrian capital, which began in April last year, aim to return the U.S. to the nuclear deal, including through the lifting of sanctions on Iran.