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Last Updated: Monday, 27 February 2006, 13:00 GMT
Venezuela delays US airline cuts
Continental Airlines planes at Houston
Sanctions on US airlines have been delayed until 30 March
Venezuela has delayed plans announced last week to cut flights by US airlines into the country, so talks can be held.

Caracas had said that, from 1 March, flights by Delta and Continental Airlines would be banned, and American Airlines flights would be reduced.

It accuses 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

Venezuelan officials said they had delayed the start of sanctions until 30 March, after the airlines protested.

The National Aviation Institute said the postponement would "allow communication channels to be established... to guarantee equal opportunities in air operations for both Venezuelan and North American airlines".

On Thursday, the authority said it had exhausted all avenues with the US aeronautical authority, and it would be "forced to reduce the frequency of flights of US airline companies from the US."

It 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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