April 8, 2019 / 8:32 PM / 10 days ago

'No commercial reason' for Iran's Mahan Air flights to Venezuela: White House official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States views private Iranian airline Mahan Air’s launch of a direct flight from Tehran to Caracas as a “politically motivated gesture” with “no commercial reason,” a White House official said on Monday.

Iran joins China and Russia which have flown supplies into Venezuela in support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro is under pressure to step down and make way for opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is backed by the United States and most Western nations.

“From our standpoint, there’s clearly no commercial reason to establish this flight at this time,” a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This is a politically motivated gesture that is unhelpful to the Venezuelan people because it doesn’t accelerate the change that we’re looking for,” the official said.

Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said on Monday that the non-stop 16-hour flight would carry foreign ministry officials to Caracas.

Mahan Air has been sanctioned by the United States since 2011 for its support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by David Gregorio

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