Chavez's Iranian visit wrapped in blaze of rhetoric


Tue, Jul 03, 2007 - Page 7

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez were scheduled to seal their economic alliance yesterday by laying the foundation stone of a joint petrochemical plant.

The two nations, both OPEC members, pledged on Sunday to boost cooperation and trade ties -- and slammed the US.

Yesterday, the final day of Chavez's trip, the two leaders were to inaugurate construction of a US$700 million methanol plant in the Asaluyeh industrial zone on the Gulf coast.

The plant, set to come on stream in four years, will have a capacity of 1.65 million tonnes of methanol a year and a similar project is planned for Venezuela, said Mohammad Hassan Peyvandi, director of planning and development for Iran's petrochemical industry.

The Venezuela plant would give Iran better access to Latin American and Brazilian markets and provide easier reach to India and Pakistan for Venezuela, the state news agency IRNA said.

"The United States is incapable of hurting Iran and Venezuela ... cooperation between the two independent states is natural and it must be expanded," state television quoted Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as telling Chavez on Sunday.

Chavez arrived in Tehran on Saturday for a two-day visit.

"The election of anti-American governments in the [Latin American] region shows that US imperialism is weakening," Chavez said.

"Numerous oil and gas contracts between Iran and Venezuela show the two countries are serious in developing ties," he said, describing Iran as a "good model for other countries."

Ahmadinejad also called for stronger ties with Latin America.

Chavez was expected to sign 20 agreements with Iran for projects in his country.

Iran also 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 Chavez welcomed Iran's observer membership in the Cuban-Venezuelan-backed alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas.