TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s latest tour of Latin America has come under fire from a moderate newspaper and some MPs who charged it was badly-timed.
“While Condoleezza Rice, Iran’s nuclear file in hand, is in the region talking to Iran’s Arab neighbours, the Iranian president is lauding the victory of socialism in Latin America,” said the reformist daily Etemad Melli on Tuesday.
During the visit, Ahmadinejad met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Ecuador President Rafael Correa and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, all leftist leaders who share Iran’s anti-American stand.
Addressing Ahmadinejad, the paper asked: “Does he really think people like Chavez, Correa and Ortega can be Iran’s strategic allies?”
“These left-wing friends are good for coffeeshop discussions but not to determine our security, political and economic priorities. We have our own priorities and we cannot build our house on water,” it said.
However the conservative daily Ressalat saw the visit differently.
“Ahmadinejad’s presence in the back yard of the United States and the very warm reception he received has certainly angered US President George W. Bush and his friends,” it said.
But leading conservative deputy Mohammad Khosh-Shehreh said the visit was “not justified” at a time when next year’s budget, which has already been delayed, was being prepared.
“When he returns, parliament will ask the president to explain why he chose this moment, these countries, and over the need to make such a visit in the current situation,” he said.
The comments come less than a week after Ahmadinejad found himself the subject of unusual criticism from two conservative newspapers over his handling of Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West.