BUENOS AIRES (Dispatches) -- Argentine President Alberto Fernandez insisted that a Venezuelan cargo plane stuck since early this month at an airport near Buenos Aires had been grounded only due to fueling difficulties, not because of any alleged link to Iran’s Quds Force.
There is “no irregularity” with the plane, Fernandez told Radio 10, adding that the sole problem was refueling difficulties linked to U.S. sanctions on Venezuela. Paraguay had claimed last week that seven crew members of the plane, which stopped in that country in May, were Quds Force members.
But Fernandez blamed his political opponents for spreading the Quds Force accusation, saying they wanted to show “something that is not — something dark”.
The Boeing 747 cargo plane is reportedly carrying car parts. Its crew members have been prevented from leaving Argentina pending an investigation.
The plane arrived in Argentina from Mexico on June 6, then tried to fly to Uruguay two days later, where it was refused entry.
Uruguay’s Interior Minister Luis Alberto Heber said his country had received a “formal warning from Paraguayan intelligence.”
Expanding the international reverberations in the case, Venezuela on Thursday evening harshly criticized Uruguay for failing to allow the plane to land in Montevideo to refuel.
Uruguay’s “regrettable action” could have “caused a tragedy, human lives and damage to both nations,” Venezuela said in a statement, adding that it “demands explanations about this terrible event from the Uruguayan government.”
The plane then returned to Argentina where it has been grounded ever since.
The plane belongs to Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s Conviasa, which is under U.S. sanctions. Conviasa purchased the plane from Tehran’s Mahan Air last year, Iranian officials said.