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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 16:09 GMT
Venezuela cuts US airline flights
Continental Airlines planes at Houston
Continental Airlines flights from Houston are likely to be affected
Venezuela is cutting flights by US airlines as relations between the two countries continue to deteriorate.

From 1 March, flights by Delta and Continental Airlines will be cut by up to 70%, and American Airlines flights will also be affected, officials say.

They accuse the US - which imposed a similar ban on Venezuela 10 years ago - of failing to give Venezuelan carriers equal access to American soil.

Relations between the two countries have long been strained.

They have hit new lows in recent weeks after a tit-for-tat expulsion row over allegations of spying, and a fierce exchange of words between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Safety issue

Continental Airlines has been running a daily service from Venezuela to Houston, and weekly flights to New York. Delta Airlines currently flies daily to Atlanta, and American Airlines to Puerto Rico and Miami.

Venezuela's National Aviation Institute said in a statement: "We have exhausted all avenues with the US aeronautical authority.

"We have been forced to reduce the frequency of flights of US airline companies from the US."

The institute accused the US aviation authorities of failing "to give Venezuelan airlines the rights they deserve under bilateral agreements".

The US Federal Aviation Administration restricted Venezuelan carriers into the US in 1996 ruling that their airline safety procedures needed to be tightened.

Venezuelan officials say their safety standards have improved since then.

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