Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday protested a US request that Argentina seize a plane from his country that has been grounded in Buenos Aires since June.
The Boeing 747 cargo plane, owned by the Venezuelan company Emtrasur, has been held in Argentina since it arrived on June 8 from Mexico with a shipment of auto parts, after having tried unsuccessfully to enter Uruguay.
On July 19, a US court in the District of Columbia issued an order to seize the plane on the grounds that US "export control laws" were violated.
"They intend to steal from us a plane owned by Venezuela, legally owned by Venezuela ... after kidnapping it for two months," Maduro said on state television Wednesday.
"Venezuela voices its protest and asks the Argentine people for all their support to recover that plane," Maduro added.
The US court order said that there had been an "unauthorized transfer" from Mahan Air, an airline affiliated with the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, which Washington considers a terrorist organization and has sanctioned, to Emtrasur, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan company Conviasa, which is also under sanctions from the US Treasury.
The plane's crew was made up of five Iranians and 14 Venezuelans. On Monday, an Argentine judge permitted 12 of the crew to have their passports returned, but said that more investigation was needed on four Iranians and three Venezuelans.