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France threatens blacklist for Yemenia

PARIS, Jul 3 – Yemenia Airways must make "very big efforts" to avoid being blacklisted in Europe following the Airbus crash off the Comoros, the French transport minister said on Friday.

"This company is under strict surveillance," said Dominique Bussereau. "If it does not want to go on the black list, it will have to make big efforts, really big efforts," he told RTL radio.

Yemen\’s official carrier has come under criticism for its safety standards after an Airbus jetliner carrying 153 people crashed off the coast of the islands on Tuesday. A 12-year-old girl survived.

Yemenia executives were due to hold talks later Friday in Paris with senior transport officials after Bussereau spoke of several "worrisome defects" detected during a maintenance check on the Airbus A310 in 2007.

The airline announced Thursday that it was suspending flights to and from the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, after throngs of Comoran protesters besieged Yemenia\’s check-in counters at the airport for two days.

The 19-year-old Yemenia Airbus had been banned from French airspace and European Union officials were also tracking the airline over safety concerns.

Sixty-six French nationals were on board the plane that crashed when the pilot was making a second attempt to land at Moroni airport.

The Yemenia flight left Paris on Monday for Marseille and Sanaa aboard a modern Airbus A330 but passengers switched to the older A310 jet to continue to Djibouti and Moroni.

Bussereau has been calling for a worldwide blacklist of unsafe airlines.

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Yemen\’s transport minister on Thursday rejected European criticism of Yemenia\’s safety standards as "unfair".

Khaled al-Wazir told a news conference in Sanaa "one cannot pre-judge Yemenia\’s technical performance in safety matters or those of any other airline before publication of the results of the inquiry."

Yemenia Airways is not on the EU blacklist, which is regularly updated, and contains the names of more than 200 airlines or firms which are either banned from operating in Europe or only allowed under strict restrictions.

Most of the airlines targeted operate out of Africa, mainly in Angola, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Swaziland.

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