HAVANA - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday both Cuba-Iranian relations and Fidel Castro were in good shape after he met with the former Cuban leader and his younger brother President Raul Castro during a one-day visit to the communist island.
He said the two countries, similarly at odds with the United States though half a world apart, were closely aligned on many issues and would continue to fight "to demand the rights of the peoples."
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"Our positions, versions, interpretations are alike, very close. We have been good friends, we are and will be, and we will be together forever. Long live Cuba," Ahmadinejad said through an interpreter at the Havana airport as he departed for Ecuador, the final stop in his Latin American tour.
Such shows of solidarity were the main purpose of Ahmadinejad's trip to four leftist-led countries as Iran seeks support amid rising international opposition to its nuclear activities. He visited Venezuela and Nicaragua before coming to Cuba on Wednesday.
The leader of the Islamic Republic said he discussed many different issues in a meeting with Fidel Castro, 85 and mostly retired, and that he was happy "to see commandant Fidel safe and sound." A recent flurry of rumors on social media claimed that Castro had died.
"We see that he follows all the national and international affairs in detail and with much pleasure," he said.
Cuban President Raul Castro told reporters his brother had met with Ahmadinejad for two hours and did most of the talking. The meeting was held on Wednesday.
"It shows that he is very well, really very well," said the younger Castro, who succeeded his brother as president four years ago and is himself 80.
About his own talks with Ahmadinejad, Castro said, "It was a good visit, we discussed quite a lot, we analyzed quite a lot, we finished very late."
Iran and Cuba united against sanctions
Communist Party newspaper Granma said Ahmadinejad and Raul Castro confirmed their commitment to, among other things, the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
They also reaffirmed their opposition to the "application of unilateral economic sanctions."
Ahmadinjad's visit came as tensions escalated following the recent imposition of new US sanctions aimed at inflicting economic damage in hopes of forcing Iran to stop its nuclear program.
Iran has said it is developing nuclear capabilities only for peaceful
purposes, but the United States and its allies accuse it of wanting to
create a nuclear weapon.
On Wednesday tensions rose further when an Iranian nuclear scientist was
killed by a car bomb in Tehran that the Iranian government blamed on
Israel and the United States. Israel declined to comment, while the
United States denied any involvement.
Ahmadinejad let government officials back in Tehran do the talking about
the incident while he stuck to a relatively non-controversial script in
In a speech at the University of Havana, he said Iran had done nothing
to make enemies, denounced capitalism and called for a new world order
based on justice and respect for all.