Iran-Venezuela seal anti-US alliance

Published: Monday July 2, 2007

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez sealed their anti-American alliance Monday by laying the foundation stone of a joint petrochemical plant.

The two leaders pledged to "stand against all enemies," a reference to the United States, as they inaugurated construction of a 700-million-dollar methanol plant in the Asaluyeh industrial zone on the Gulf coast.

Chavez, on his third trip to Iran since Ahmadinejad took office in 2005, promised to "unite the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean" and even adopted Persian slang for the benefit of reporters assembled for the occasion.

"We as two united countries will build a better world. I thank God that Iran and Venezuela are standing together forever," he said on the last day of a trip which has already taken him to Russia and Belarus.

"We are going to unite the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean. We are together and we want to go forward with a multi-polar world," he said.

The two members of the powerful OPEC oil cartel pledged to boost cooperation and trade ties during a day of talks between Chazez and leaders of Iran's Islamic regime on Sunday, while predicting the downfall of the United States.

Ahmadinejad lauded the "brotherly ties" between the two countries, one a Shiite clerical regime and the other a deeply Catholic socialist democracy.

Despite their cultural differences, the two are major oil producers and staunch opponents of US "hegemony and imperialism."

"A long step was taken to bolster brotherly ties between the two revolutionary, people's governments of Iran and Venezuela, whose goal is to build their countries and stand against all enemies," Ahmadinejad said.

"It's a glorious day. We're determined to build things together and give it as a gift to our nations," he added, as Chavez chimed in with snippets of Persian such as "eyval" or "bravo."

"Viva Iran and Venezuela and all revolutionary nations and death to the enemies," Ahmadinejad said.

The methanol plant, set to come on stream in four years, will have a capacity of 1.65 million tonnes a year and a similar project is planned for Venezuela, an Iranian petrochemical official said.

The Venezuela plant would give Iran better access to Latin American and Brazilian markets and provide easier reach to India and Pakistan for Venezuela, the state news agency IRNA said.

Chavez met Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Sunday in a rare honour for a non-Muslim visiting foreign dignatory.

"The United States is incapable of hurting Iran and Venezuela... cooperation between the two independent states is natural and it must be expanded," state television quoted Khamenei as telling Chavez.

Chavez arrived in Tehran on Saturday for a two-day visit on the last leg of a tour of nations at loggerheads with Washington, which has already taken him to Russia and Belarus.

He was accompanied by his foreign, communications, energy, industry and economy ministers, and was expected to sign 20 agreements with Iran for projects in his country.

Ahmadinejad toured Latin America in January in a bid to seek support from the region's leftist leaders who share his scornful defiance of the United States.

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

The United States, which broke diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980 after Islamist revolutionaries occupied its embassy, has been spearheading the international campaign to stop Iran's enrichment programme.