Prague, Oct 22 (CTK) – The United States has expressed concern about the planned Prague-Tehran direct flights to be operated by Mahan Air, the largest Iranian private airlines, since it considers the firm dangerous for security reasons, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes Thursday.

Mahan Air is one of the firms on which the U.S. has imposed sanctions since it has contacts with the Hezbollah Islamist militant group based in Lebanon, and it serves as “a government travel agency” for secret agents from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, according to U.S. security experts.

This is also why they closely watch the ongoing talks about a licence for Mahan Air at the Czech Civil Aviation Authority (UCL).

The Americans have sent a letter to Prague pointing out security risks in connection with Mahan Air, LN writes.

Mahan Air plans to operate the flights on the route Prague-Tehran three times a week. Prague would thereby become the first city in Central and Eastern Europe to have a direct air connection with the Iranian capital, LN says.

“The Mahan Air Iranian company has expressed interest in operating a regular flight on the Prague-Tehran route as of June 1, 2016,” Zdenek Neuser, from the Transport Ministry’s press section, confirmed to LN.

The flight would be a bilaterally advantageous step, LN says.

Czech diplomacy could boast of an accommodating step in the gradual warming up of relations with Iran that Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek started by his visit to the country in September.

It would also be in harmony with the Mahan Air strategy of opening several destinations in the EU. This year it launched direct flights to Athens, Milan and Munich, for instance, and by the end of the year it plans to fly to Kiev as well, LN writes.

However, the negotiations with the Iranian airlines in Prague have also become a diplomatic hot issue.

“Americans have sent a letter to the Czech Republic in which they stress that Mahan Air is on the sanction list of the Federal Department of Finance and that its activities are extremely suspicious,” a diplomatic source told LN.

Moreover, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) influential conservative think tank, based in Washington, has indirectly criticised the talks about a Czech licence for Mahan Air, LN adds.

The United States blacklisted Mahan Air in October 2011 allegedly for transporting materiel and officers of the Quds Force, a secret unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, to Syria and Yemen. This year, the airlines transported goods for Hezbollah.

In May, the airlines also bought eight used Airbus aircraft, 13 years old on average, for 300 million dollars via an almost unknown Al Naser company by which it circumvented an international embargo on the supplies of Western technologies to Iran, LN says.

The U.S. secret services also fear that the planes would be used for the transport of military materiel and this is why they threatened with their seizure, the paper adds.

Neither the Transport Ministry nor the UCL have commented on the negotiations about a licence for Mahan Air. However, there are no official obstacles to it since the firm does not figure on the EU blacklist, LN writes.

However, a diplomatic source indicated that even if the licence were issued, it would not mean that the Prague-Tehran direct flight would really be operated and that the licence might only serve as an negotiating argument for warming up relations between the Iranian regime and the West, LN writes.