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Iran, Venezuela Leaders Praise Each Other

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad gestures upon his arrival at Maiquetia Airport in Caracas, Venezuela, on January 8.
Mahmud Ahmadinejad has met his Venezuelan counterpart in Caracas on the first leg of a four-nation tour of Latin America by the Iranian president.

President Hugo Chavez on January 9 gave Ahmadinejad a red-carpet welcome at the Venezuelan presidential palace.

The two leaders, both frequent critics of U.S. policies, referred to each other as "brother" and showered each other with praise.

Chavez defended Iran from charges of aggression, and said the two leaders were seeking weapons to use against "poverty, hunger, and underdevelopment."

"We will certainly work a lot on some bombs, on some missiles, to continue with a war,” said Chavez. “The war, our war, is against poverty, against misery, against hunger, against underdevelopment. These are our weapons."

Ahmadinejad added that if they were together building anything like a bomb, "the fuel of that bomb is love."

Ahmadinejad joined in denouncing what he called "imperialism," but said, “We love all peoples in the world, including the people of the United States who are under the rule of arrogant people."

The Venezuelan leader said Iranian assistance has helped the South American country build 14,000 homes, as well as factories that produce food, tractors, and vehicles.

Officials said the Venezuelan and Iranian sides signed two cooperation agreements during Ahamadinejad's visit, but no fresh energy deal was announced between the two OPEC member states.

Ahmadinejad is making his fifth visit to Venezuela as Iranian president. From Caracas, he was expected to visit this week Nicaragua, Cuba, and Ecuador.

Ahead of his tour, the United States had urged Latin American states not to strengthen ties with Iran, saying the Islamic republic was facing increasing international pressure over its controversial nuclear program and was “desperate for friends.”

compiled from agency reports

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