Saturday, January 13, 2007

Just A Friendly Visit?

There is the distinct possibility that this stopover is for the purpose of coordinating direct action in the event of a U.S. strike on Iran.

CARACAS, Venezuela, Jan. 13 — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived here on Saturday for talks with President Hugo Chávez, on the first leg of a Latin American visit to enhance Iran's stature with governments where distrust of the Bush administration already runs deep.

It is Mr. Ahmadinejad's second visit to Venezuela in the past five months, and the two leaders were scheduled to talk about strengthening their economic ties. From here, the Iranian president is to visit Ecuador and Nicaragua, where leftist presidents aligned with Mr. Chávez are being sworn in this month.

Venezuela's government promoted the visit as an example of Middle Eastern solidarity with Mr. Chávez's opposition to American foreign policy. Venezuela has been a vociferous defender of Iran as the United States steps up efforts to circumscribe Mr. Ahmadinejad's government, most recently through military raids this week on people suspected of being Iranian operatives in Iraq. ...
"There is a desire by Chávez to accelerate what he views as a strategic alliance with Iran," said Alberto Garrido, author of "Chávez's Wars," a book recently published here that explores Venezuela's ties to the Middle East. "The Venezuelan left has for decades considered allegiances with Muslim countries as one of the ways to create a new civilization through the toppling of American values."

For the time being, Venezuela's relations with Iran have revolved around Mr. Chávez's defense of Iran's uranium enrichment plans, while the two countries deepen their cooperation in oil-related areas. For instance, Venezuela said last month that it would buy four oil tankers from Iran, part of Venezuela's plan to increase its 21-ship tanker fleet through the acquisition of 42 additional vessels.

Iran and Venezuela, the world's fourth- and fifth-largest oil exporters, are also exploring for oil together in Venezuela's Orinoco region. And they have plans for a joint oil trading company, part of an ambition by Caracas and Tehran to price oil in euros instead of dollars in order to weaken the influence of the United States in the international oil market.


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