Iran president cements anti-US front with Venezuela

By Saul Hudson
Sun Sep 17, 2006 12:45pm ET

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shored up opposition to a U.S. drive to curb Iran's nuclear program on a visit to Venezuela on Sunday that cemented an anti-American front with President Hugo Chavez.

Ahmadinejad's first trip to Venezuela highlighted Iran's backing for the fellow OPEC country's bid for a U.N. Security Council seat that Chavez would use to challenge Washington's campaign for international sanctions against Tehran.

Chavez, who Washington calls a destabilizing, anti-democratic force, cast the visit as two countries jointly defying what he says is the imperialist aggression of the world's only superpower.

"Iran is one of the emerging countries of Asia, the Middle East. Venezuela is one of the emerging countries of Latin America," he told a state-owned TV network. "It is a union that seeks a balance in the world and to save the future of your children, my children and our grandchildren."

"It is doing the world a favor," he said.

Buoyed by high oil prices that underpin their popularity at home and tapping into anti-American sentiment around the world, both presidents are awkward foes for the United States.

"Two revolutions are giving each other a hand," Chavez said at the capital's airport where he welcomed Ahmadinejad, chatting with him and walking with his arm across the visitor's shoulders.

Iran established an Islamic republic after a 1979 revolution that ousted a U.S.-backed leader and Chavez says he is creating his own revolution to overturn capitalist and U.S. influence in the South American country.

Iranian-Venezuelan ties have previously focused almost exclusively on cooperation as major oil exporters, but the two leaders emphasized their new bond in standing up to America.

"Nowadays, we have common goals and interests," Ahmadinejad said. "We have to be united ... to achieve peace and justice."

"I salute all the revolutionaries who oppose world hegemony," he added in an apparent reference to the United States.

Ahmadinejad's two-day stop in Venezuela is sandwiched between a trip to Cuba for the summit of Non-Aligned Movement countries, which called on developing nations to challenge U.S. dominance, and a visit to the United Nations in New York.

At the world body's general assembly, Ahmadinejad will lobby for Iran's right to develop nuclear programs it says are for peaceful power generation despite Washington's assertion Tehran is trying to build an atomic weapon.

Chavez will press for a Security Council seat against a U.S. campaign supporting Venezuela's rival, Guatemala.

Chavez accused the United States of a smear campaign against Venezuela and Iran, saying it was spreading lies that Ahmadinejad's visit was to secure Venezuela's uranium for its nuclear programs.

"They don't get tired of lying," he said.