Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who maintains warm ties with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamadinejad, said Friday in a television interview that he opposed Ahmadinejad's call to "wipe Israel off the map."
"I don't agree with [Ahmadinejad's] statementsâ€¦I don't support causing harm to any nation," Chavez declared. Chavez has repeatedly raised the ire of Jewish groups by making remarks deemed anti-Semitic.
In addition, Chavez has come out in support of Iran's nuclear program as well as denouncing the summer's war in Lebanon, accusing Israel of a 'new Holocaust.' At the Non-Aligned Movement summit, which was held in Cuba leading up to Ahamdinejad's visit to Caracas in September, Venezuela and Iran channeled the tide of global anti-US sentiment into support for Iran's right to nuclear energy.
Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad reiterated on Friday that new sanctions will not force Iran to give up its right to enrich uranium and blasted the UN Security Council as an instrument used by "bullying" Western nations against Teheran.
"We have achieved the nuclear fuel cycle. We won't give it up under pressure. You can't stop the Iranian nation from this path through meetings," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by state media.
But even as the Iranian president reiterated Teheran would pursue the controversial enrichment program, he has asked to speak before the UN's most powerful body on the day the Security Council votes on a new resolution on stepped up sanctions against his country.
In turn, the US announced Friday it would approve Ahmadinejad's request for a visa
so he can visit the UN.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday that the United States has approved a visa for Ahmedinejad previously and will do so again, consistent with its obligations as host country for the United Nations.
McCormack pointed out that any UN member subject to a Security Council resolution has the right of rebuttal.