Vilified by world leaders wary of his nuclear ambitions, Iran's president is turning to South American leftists who are embracing him as an energy and trade partner and counterweight to US influence.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was headed to Bolivia Thursday to establish first-time diplomatic relations with the Andean nation.
He and President Evo Morales were expected to sign accords that Bolivian officials say could help them better tap the continent's second-largest natural gas reserves after Venezuela's and drum up urgently needed agricultural investment.
Ahmadinejad is then Caracas-bound to meet Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
On the heels of a UN General Assembly appearance in which he exacerbated concerns about Iranian bellicosity, Ahmadinejad's trip south underscores his strengthening links to Latin American nations also including Nicaragua and Ecuador even as the United States tries to isolate him internationally.