Chavez backing Iran's Ahmadinejad
President Hugo Chavez has defended his close ally Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying Iran is facing "US warmongering threats" amid tensions over its nuclear programme.
The two leaders met in Caracas on the first leg of a four-nation tour that will also take Mr Ahmadinejad to Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador.
"We are very worried," Mr Chavez said of pressures being put on Iran by the United States and its allies, which he accused of being a threat to peace.
"They present us as aggressors," Mr Chavez said as he received Mr Ahmadinejad at the presidential palace. "Iran hasn't invaded anyone," he added. "Who has dropped thousands and thousands of bombs ... including atomic bombs?"
Mr Ahmadinejad's visit comes after the US imposed tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, which Washington believes Tehran is using to develop atomic weapons. Mr Chavez and his allies back Iran in arguing the nuclear programme is purely for peaceful purposes.
Adding to the tensions, Iranian state radio reported on Monday that a court in Iran has convicted dual US-Iranian citizen Amir Mirzaei Hekmati of working for the CIA and sentenced him to death. Neither president mentioned the case.
Mr Chavez accused the US and its European allies of demonising Iran and using false claims about the nuclear issue "like they used the excuse of weapons of mass destruction to do what they did in Iraq".
Mr Ahmadinejad dismissed the accusations about Iran's nuclear programme in general terms. "They say we're making (a) bomb," the Iranian leader said through an interpreter. "Fortunately, the majority of Latin American countries are alert. Everyone knows that those words... are a joke. It's something to laugh at."
Both leaders also joked that their relationship should not cause any concern. Mr Ahmadinejad said if they were together building anything like a bomb, "the fuel of that bomb is love". Mr Chavez played on the same theme, saying: "We are going to work a lot for some bombs, for some missiles, to keep the war going. Our war is against poverty, hunger and underdevelopment."
Government officials signed two agreements promoting industrial cooperation and worker training.