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Venezuela includes Delta in flight ban


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Associated Press


CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela plans to prohibit Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines from flying into this South American nation and is restricting flights by a third major U.S. carrier, American Airlines, the head of the nation's federal aviation agency said.


Francisco Paz, president of the National Aviation Institute, said the action was taken because the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had established a similar ban on some Venezuelan carriers serving routes to the United States 10 years ago due to safety violations. Venezuela said the U.S. has failed to recognize improvements since then.


The orders would take effect on March 1, Paz told the local Globovision television channel.


In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the decision was unjustified and unwarranted and violated the 1953 Air Transport Services Agreement between the United States and Venezuela. He said the United States is urging Venezuela to respect the agreement.


Relations between Caracas and Washington have been tense in recent weeks with U.S. officials voicing concerns over the health of Venezuela's democracy and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatening to cut off oil exports to the United States.


Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines currently operates a daily route from Simon Bolivar international Airport to Atlanta. Continental Airlines has a daily round trip to Caracas from Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and a weekly round trip to Caracas from Newark, N.J.


"We are very disappointed by this unilateral action by the Venezuelan government and we are working closely with the U.S. departments of State and Transportation, as well as the airlines who received similar notice, to resolve the issue as quickly as possible," said Gina Laughlin, a spokeswoman for Delta Air Lines Inc.


Continental Airlines Inc. is negotiating with Venezuelan authorities "to try to resolve the situation immediately and amicably," the carrier said Friday in a statement.

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