Iran and Venezuela share an anti-US stance and energy sector co-operation[AFP]


Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, has urged his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to cooperate to defeat imperialism.

Chavez, a staunch critic, of the US described Ahmadinejad as his "ideological brother", during a meeting in Tehran on Sunday, his third in the two years.

"Co-operation of independent countries such as Iran and Venezuela has an effective role in defeating the policies of imperialism and saving nations," he was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency (Irna).

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Chavez arrived in Tehran on Saturday for a two-day stay after visits to Russia and Belarus where he has tried to consolidate political opposition to the US.

He was accompanied by his foreign, communication, energy, industry and economy ministers.

One of his first meetings was with Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hoseyn Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.

Chavez and Ahmadinejad are expected to sign a number of agreements including the construction of 7,000 houses, a petrochemical plant and a vocational training centre in Venezuela.

They are set to inaugurate construction of a joint petrochemical plant on Monday in the southern Iranian city of Asaluyeh, which will produce a million tons of methanol every year, Irna said.

A similar plant would be built in Venezuela to give Iran better access to Latin American and Brazilian markets and provide easier reach to India and Pakistan for Venezuela.

Warm ties

In addition to their anti-US stance, the two countries enjoy warm ties and co-operation in the energy sector.

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Iran is Opec's second largest producer of crude oil and Venezuela is also a key member of the international oil cartel.

Ahmadinejad toured Latin America in January in a bid to seek support from the region's left-wing leaders who share his opposition of US international policies.

Chavez is the most vocal supporter in Latin America for Iran and its nuclear programme, which is suspected by the US and Britain to be a cover for weapons development although Tehran insists it is purely peaceful.

His trip comes as Iran is being threatened with toughened UN Security Council sanctions for its continued refusal to freeze uranium enrichment, a process which makes nuclear fuel but can also be the core of an atomic bomb.

The US, which broke diplomatic ties with Iran in 1979, has been spearheading the international campaign to stop Iran's enrichment programme and has never ruled out a military option to halt the drive.

Venezuela and several other Latin American countries are members of the Non-Aligned Movement that, at a summit last year, emphatically backed Iran's right to nuclear energy.

Many in the West accuse Iran of developing
nuclear weapons [GALLO/GETTY]
Venezuela was alone in September 2005 in opposing a resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that found Iran in violation of nuclear safeguards, paving the way for its referral to the Security Council.

Mohammad Ali Hosseini, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, said: "Latin America offers good opportunities for co-operation. Common political views and positions help us to have better co-operation."

Before heading to Iran, Chavez met the Russian and Belarus presidents, and urged a global revolution against Washington.

He has also discussed possible purchases of submarines and other defence equipment from Russia, arguing that these are needed to defend his country against the US.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies