Iran carrier begins direct flights to Venezuela

Iran's second largest airline has begun direct flights to Venezuela, as Tehran voices support for Caracas against a US -backed opposition.

Caracas is the first destination in the Western Hemisphere for Mahan Air, whose planes now service about 50 domestic and worldwide routes across Iran, Asia and Europe.

According to Jafarzadeh, a delegation from Mahan Air is also traveling to Caracas to discuss the conditions of maintaining regular flights between the two countries.

A White House official said the US government viewed the launch of direct flights as a "politically motivated gesture".

An Iran Foreign Ministry delegation left Tehran early Monday on a Mahan Air flight en route to Caracas, Iran's IRNA news agency reported.

The Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement last May and tightened sanctions against the Venezuelan government starting in January, prompting both Tehran and Caracas to look for ways to get around the tough USA restrictions.

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A Reuters photographer saw a Mahan Air plane parked at Caracas' main Maiquetia airport on Monday morning.

The US and about 50 other countries say Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's re-election a year ago was not legitimate and have recognized the head of the National Assembly as the interim president of Venezuela.

Russia, China, Turkey and the Syrian regime have backed Maduro, while the U.S. and some European countries have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's leader.

The U.S. government has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.

Since Guaido began a campaign in January to oust Maduro, whom he denounces as illegitimate, Chinese and Russian planes have flown supplies and military personnel to Venezuela in support of the government.

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