Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called on countries to deny overflight rights to Mahan Air, an Iranian airline under U.S. sanctions, which he said recently delivered cargoes of “unknown support” to the Venezuelan government, Reuters informed.
Washington maintains punishing sanctions on Iran aimed at containing its regional power in the Middle East and has hit Venezuela with similiarly tough measures in an effort to force socialist President Nicolas Maduro from power.
At a State Department news conference, Pompeo said aircraft of privately owned Mahan Air, Iran’s largest airline, in recent days delivered supplies to Maduro’s government.
“Over the last few days, multiple aircraft belonging to Mahan Air have transferred unknown support to the Maduro regime,” Pompeo said. “This is the same terrorist airline that Iran used to move weapons and fighters around the Middle East.”
The flights “must stop,” Pompeo continued, adding that countries should deny Mahan Air overflight rights “just as many have already denied landing rights to this sanctioned airline.”
The Trump administration has waged a campaign of sanctions and diplomatic measures against Venezuela in an effort to oust Maduro, whose 2018 re-election was considered a sham by most Western countries.
The United States and dozens of other governments recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president in January of last year. But Maduro – who derides Guaido as a U.S. puppet – remains in power, backed by Venezuela’s military as well as Russia, China and Cuba.