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Iranian leader seeks support in Latin America

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad started on Sunday a four-nation Latin American tour with a visit to Venezuela as part of an effort to win support in the region.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad started on Sunday a four-nation Latin American tour with a visit to Venezuela as part of an effort to win support in the region.

Ahmadinejad, who is accompanied by several key ministers, is expected to meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday to discuss bilateral relations and prospective trade deals.

He will travel to Nicaragua on January 10 to attend the inauguration of newly reelected President Daniel Ortega and wrap up his five-day tour with visits to Cuba and Ecuador.

Experts believe that improving ties with leftist regimes in Latin America becomes vitally important for Tehran as the global community has been gradually increasing its pressure on Iran over the country’s controversial nuclear program.

Western powers and Israel suspect Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies this, saying its program is civilian in nature.

"As the regime feels increasing pressure, it is desperate for friends and flailing around in interesting places to find new friends," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters last week.

Tensions between Iran and the West escalated in the past few weeks as Tehran threatened to stop oil supplies passing through the Strait of Hormuz should the economic sanctions limit or prevent Iranian oil exports.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Iran on Sunday that any attempt to carry out its threat would draw an immediate U.S. military response.

 

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