TEHRAN – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday reaffirmed their commitment to the struggle against “imperialism” on the first day of the South American’s eighth visit to Tehran.
The two beaming leaders embraced each other warmly on the patio of the presidential palace, where after reviewing Iranian troops they greeted their respective delegations.
Afterward, the two presidents went to a private meeting room, where, according to information provided by Venezuelan diplomats, they discussed promoting the south-south axis and worked on the road map for bilateral relations over the next 10 years.
“Iran and Venezuela share the important mission of helping oppressed, revolutionary nations and of extending the anti-imperialist front across the planet,” Ahmadinejad told reporters at the start of Chavez’s two-day visit.
“The time when arrogant powers could influence revolutionary nations is over,” the Iranian official press quoted the president as saying.
Chavez, for his part, described Iran as a strategic ally and defended its right to develop a peaceful nuclear energy program.
“We are convinced that Iran, as it has shown, will not stop seeking to obtain what is a right of its people: to have the equipment and structures to use atomic energy for civilian purposes,” Chavez said.
“There’s no proof whatsoever that Iran is building a (nuclear) bomb,” he said. “Soon they’ll accuse us of also building a bomb,” Chavez added.
According to PressTV, a Tehran-based, English-language television channel, Chavez also said Venezuela is working on a plan for a “nuclear zone” in Venezuela, with Iranian assistance.
On Friday, Venezuela’s ambassador to Tehran, David Velasquez Carballo, said that there is currently no nuclear cooperation between the two countries but did not rule out that it may exist in the future.
The international community, led by the United States, Israel and the largest European Union countries, accuse the Iranian government of seeking to obtain nuclear weapons. Iran vehemently denies that is its aim.
Diplomatic sources also said that during Chavez’s two-day visit the leaders will push to implement 200 cooperation agreements signed in sectors such as oil, housing, industry, health and technology transfers.
Deals, for example, are to be signed to build two ethanol plants in Venezuela, dozens of homes on Lake Maracaibo, shipbuilding firms and even vehicle- and tractor-assembly plants.
Joint military projects and the creation of synergies in areas such as vaccines and medical patents are also in the works, the diplomatic sources said.
Plans are also underway to get a bi-national development bank off the ground; although it was inaugurated during Chavez’s visit to Iran in April it has not yet begun operating.
The two leaders also will examine international issues, such as U.S. policy in Latin America and the Middle East. Chavez, first elected in 1998, has been the harshest critic of U.S. influence in Latin America and also has slammed Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
The goal is to “strengthen ties ... and generate necessary spaces for coordination and unity in relation to worrying international scenarios such as (U.S.) bases in Colombia, the coup in Honduras and some positions of the United States in Latin America,” the ambassador said.
The diplomat was referring to a deal to allow U.S. troops access to several military bases in Colombia, which Chavez says is a threat to the region but Bogota insists is necessary to fight drug trafficking.
In the case of the putsch in Honduras, President Mel Zelaya was arrested and taken out of the country by the army after the political establishment objected to his moves to ally himself with Chavez and push to change that nation’s constitution.
The Iranian government was among the first to support Chavez and express its total rejection of the deployment of U.S. troops at Colombian military bases.
“Iran and Venezuela can look to cooperate in different international scenarios by applying the bilateral accords that have been signed,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying Saturday by the local press.