Iran's Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Chavez 311 (R).
(photo credit: Raheb Homavandi / Reuters)
CARACAS, - Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would visit the South American country this month, a move that could exacerbate tensions between Caracas and Washington.
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The leftist Venezuelan president told reporters his Iranian counterpart would visit after next week's meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York.
"After New York, he's coming here," Chavez said, without giving more details.
Both fierce anti-US ideologues, Ahmadinejad and Chavez have become close
political and commercial allies in recent years. The two countries are
allies within OPEC.
US President Barack Obama hit Venezuela's state-oil company, PDVSA, with
sanctions in May for sending Iran two tankers of an oil-blending
component in defiance of US law.
The measures were largely symbolic and it is in both countries' interests not to seriously interrupt oil supplies.
Chavez will not attend the General Assembly due to ill health. Having
been operated on for cancer in June, he is set to start a fourth round
of chemotherapy in the days ahead.
Obama has faced pressure from conservatives in Congress to impose
tougher measures if Venezuela keeps ignoring US restrictions designed to
limit Iran's nuclear program.
If Iran-Venezuela oil and investment ties deepen, Obama could take more
measures, possibly excluding PDVSA from the US financial system. That
would affect Venezuelan debt, or in the worst-case scenario, limit
imports from Venezuela.