JOHN YDSTIE, host:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez welcomed the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, yesterday. The two leaders called for cutting world oil supplies to boost prices, and they pledged to work together to counter what they describe as U.S. imperialism around the world. Juan Forero has more from Caracas.
JUAN FORERO: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit comes at a time of growing tension between the Bush administration and Iran. The Bush administration is accusing Iran of providing weapons and training to Shiite forces fighting American troops in Iraq. President Bush has vowed to respond against Tehran. The United States has already been trying to isolate Iran, saying it's using its nuclear program to build an atomic weapon. In an increasingly hostile world for Tehran, Ahmadinejad is looking for friends in America's backyard.
President HUGO CHAVEZ (Venezuela): (Spanish spoken)
FORERO: Chavez welcomed the Iranian president as a brother and fellow revolutionary. Venezuela says the two countries are looking to embark on a range of economic and social accords. Both are OPEC heavyweights, so energy is central to their talks. In Chavez, the Iranian president has a stalwart ally whose country, like Iran's, is oil rich. And he also has a leader who is ideologically opposed to the United States. So much so that in 2005 Venezuela was alone in opposing a resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency that found Iran in violation of nuclear safeguards. Alberto Garrido said politics outweighs economics in this relationship. He is an author who has written about Chavez's relationship with Middle Eastern countries.
Mr. ALBERTO GARRIDO (Author): (Through translator) There is a strategic alliance between Venezuela and Iran that is gaining momentum. There's an intercontinental strategy whose base is to unite themselves against the United States. Remember, both see the United States as a fundamental enemy.
FORERO: The United States welcomed a coup that ultimately failed against Chavez in 2002. The Venezuelan leader has not forgotten. Since then, he has only grown stronger. And last month, he won a new six-year term in a landslide. Now he is promising to nationalize companies to accelerate his so-called Bolivarian revolution. A major strategy is reaching out to leaders like Ahmadinejad. Michael Penfold(ph), a political scientist in Caracas, said the visit to Venezuela and its allies is central to Chavez's foreign policy.
Mr. MICHAEL PENFOLD (Political Scientist): He's trying to build sort of a coalition of different countries that have sort of an anti-American positions. This lining up with Iran is very consistent with what his foreign is claiming to be.
FORERO: Today, Ahmadinejad is scheduled to meet in Nicaragua with Daniel Ortega. On Monday, Ahmadinejad travels to Ecuador for the inauguration of another leftist, Rafael Correa. He will also meet with Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, another Chavez ally. Chavez still says he wants better relations with Washington, but there are those who don't see a rosy future with the friends he's keeping. Juan Forero, NPR News, Caracas, Venezuela.
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