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Iran's President Leaves On Latin America Tour

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (right) welcomes his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez to Iran in October 2010.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has left for a five-day Latin American tour.

The trip will take Ahmadinejad to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Ecuador -- all countries that "resist the oppression" of the United States and share "an anticolonialist view," he said just before flying out, according to the Fars news agency.

Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who, like the Iranian leader, is a frequent critic of U.S. policies, are expected to discuss Iran's economic and political ties to Venezuela. Reports say new deals are expected to be announced.

In Nicaragua, Ahmadinejad is to attend the inauguration of reelected President Daniel Ortega.

Ahmadinejad is due to travel on to Cuba and Ecuador, which are also led by leftist leaders.

Ahead of the visit by the Iranian president, the United States urged Latin American states not to strengthen ties with Iran.

The State Department said the Islamic republic's regime was facing increasing international pressure, including sanctions, over its controversial nuclear program, and was "desperate for friends."

compiled from agency reports