Chavez: "We'll stay by Iran at any time and under any condition"

Venezuelan President in Teheran for two-day visit.

chavez ahmadinejad 88 (photo credit: )
chavez ahmadinejad 88
(photo credit: )
Anti-US leaders Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad met in Teheran on Saturday, pledging to stick together in their frequent clashes with the United States. Chavez' two-day visit came as Iran faces renewed international criticism for its nuclear program and for backing Hizbullah guerrillas, engaged in fighting with Israel since they captured two IDF soldiers July 12. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council on Friday reached a deal on a resolution that would give Iran until the end of August to suspend uranium enrichment or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions. In Teheran, Chavez pledged that his country would "stay by Iran at any time and under any condition." Ahmedinejad said he saw in the Venezuelan president a kindred spirit. "I feel I have met a brother and trench mate after meeting Chavez," Ahmedinejad was quoted as saying by state-run Iranian television. Chavez said admired the Iranian president for "his wisdom and strength." He invited Iranian oil companies to invest in Venezuela. Venezuelan state TV also reported that the countries are considering having Iran participate in a natural gas project off the Venezuelan coastline. "We are with you and with Iran forever. As long as we remain united we will be able to defeat (US) imperialism, but if we are divided they will push us aside," Chavez said. The Venezuelan leader has been on a trip that included a visit to Belarus where he met with authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who is dubbed Europe's last dictator by Washington and shares Chavez's strong anti-US views. Earlier this week he secured an arms agreement with Russia that prompted US criticism. Chavez boasted in Moscow on Thursday that Russia had helped his country break a US-imposed "blockade" by agreeing to sell fighter planes and helicopters worth billions of dollars to Venezuela. Chavez is also hoping to set up Kalashnikov weapons plants and ammunition plants in Venezuela under Russian license. During his visit to Qatar, which began Friday, Chavez said Venezuela could eventually export guns and ammunition to Bolivia and other allies once these plants were built. Bilateral trade last year between Iran and Venezuela was valued at approximately $1 billion US. Iranian investment in Venezuela includes a production line for tractors and several housing projects. During his visit, Chavez was to inaugurate the new Venezuelan embassy in Tehran and meet Iranian business leaders. He was also to tour Iran-Khodro, Iran's giant public sector automobile manufacturer. The leaders and top officials were expected to sign memorandums of understanding in various fields. Iranian state television reported that Chavez was also to meet Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.