11/25/2009, 00.00

Tehran developing ties with Africa and Latin America to get support for its nuclear programme

Ahmadinejad is in Caracas, fourth leg of a five-nation tour (Gambia, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela and Senegal). The Iranian president is promoting closer bilateral cooperation and seeking support for his country’s nuclear programme. The visit triggers protests by Venezuelan Jews; for them, he is an “ominous” figure.
Caracas (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Caracas (Venezuela) today on a five-day tour of Latin America and Africa to promote economic cooperation and trade as well as gain support for his country’s controversial nuclear programme. So far, he has visited Gambia, Brazil and Bolivia, and is expected to travel to Senegal, the last stop before his flight home.

Venezuelan authorities gave the Iranian leader the red carpet ceremony. Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are both critics of the “imperialist” policies of the United States and Israel. During their summit, they plan to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations.

Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, said that Tehran and Caracas have already signed 280 agreements, 80 joint projects in the areas of energy, industry and agriculture. The two sides have also agreed to a new visa system. Venezuela will also support Iran’s controversial nuclear programme.

Caracas has accepted Tehran’s contention that it is for peaceful purposes. Both capitals reject Western claims that Iran’s nuclear programme masks plans to build an atomic bomb.

The visit by the Iranian president in Venezuela has led to protests by the local Jewish community, who call him an “ominous” figure who “could cause serious harm to humanity” if not stopped.

For a Jewish group said, the summit “gives legitimacy to a regime about which there are serious doubts over its transparency and legality”.

In previous days, Ahmadinejad got the green light on the nuclear issue from Brazil and Bolivia.

Bolivian President Evo Morales recognised “the legitimate right of all countries to use and develop nuclear energy for peaceful ends.”

The leaders of Iran and Bolivia also signed a deal increasing Iran's involvement in mining research in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni, a vast salt desert near the Chilean border with the largest lithium deposits in the world, containing up to 100 million tonnes of the metal.

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