Iran plans to join Cuban-Venezuelan trade agreement

After meeting Ahmadinejad in Teheran, Chavez says cooperation between the two countries "will have an effective role in defeating imperialism."

chavez ahmadinejad 298.8 (photo credit: AP)
chavez ahmadinejad 298.8
(photo credit: AP)
Iran plans to join a Latin American initiative designed to counter US-led efforts for free trade in the region, the official Web site of Iran's president office reported on Sunday. The report said visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez welcomed Iran's observer membership in the Cuban-Venezuelan-backed alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas. "The pillars of world arrogance have been shaky. Victory will be realized by resistance and steadiness," Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during his meeting with Chavez, according to the Web site. Chavez and Cuban President Fidel Castro signed the deal - known by its Spanish acronym ALBA - in 2005 to criticize Washington's efforts to expand its free trade with Latin American countries. It contains much leftist rhetoric, and few specifics, but was followed by closer economic ties between the two vehemently anti-US leaders. ALBA is seen as countering the US-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas hemispheric trade pact. Though FTAA stalled in 2005, Washington since has signed nine free trade agreements with Latin American countries. "Cooperation between independent countries such as Iran and Venezuela will have an effective role in defeating imperialism," said Chavez, according to the Web site. Ties between Iran and Venezuela have been growing stronger, with both leaders strongly condemning US policies. Chavez has defended Iran's disputed nuclear program, dismissing Washington's concerns that Teheran is secretly trying to develop atomic weapons. "Political interests and close regional and international stances are among the important factors that help to continue this close cooperation," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters Sunday during his weekly press conference. Chavez arrived in Iran on Saturday for a two-day visit, as part of a three-nation tour after stops in Russia and Belarus. His visit is the third to Iran in the past two years and the sixth since he came to power. Hosseini said Iran and Venezuela would sign some 20 memorandums of understanding during Chavez's visit, but he did not provide further details. Iran's state-run television said the two countries would sign agreements on the construction of a 7,000-unit housing project and an artisan school, both in Venezuela. Iran has partnered with Venezuela on several industrial projects in the South American nation, including the production of cars, tractors and plastic goods, the television added.