TEHRAN (AFP)- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived on a lightning visit to Iran on Monday, the latest evidence of the burgeoning ties between the fellow US foes, the Fars news agency reported.
Chavez, who was accompanied by five ministers including the foreign, oil and industry ministers, was expected to leave Monday afternoon after several hours of talks with Iranian officials.
The visit is Chavez’s fourth to Iran since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. He last visited Iran as recently as July, laying the foundations alongside Ahmadinejad for a joint petrochemical plant.
Both Chavez and his self-proclaimed political “brother” Ahmadinejad had been attending a weekend OPEC summit in Riyadh, where Chavez warned oil could hit 200 dollars a barrel if the United States attacked Iran.
Despite their cultural differences, Iran and Venezuela have in the last years forged increasingly strong ties based on their shared dislike of the United States.
Chavez is the most vocal cheerleader in Latin America for Iran and its nuclear programme, which is feared by the West to be a cover for weapons development although Tehran insists it is purely peaceful.
Both staunchly anti-American leaders with a passion for provocative statements, Ahmadinejad and Chavez appeared to have forged a close personal bond marked by much mutual back-slapping and embracing.
Amid increasingly cool ties with the West over the nuclear standoff, Iran has worked hard to cultivate its ties with Non-Aligned allies like Belarus, Bolivia Nicaragua, Syria and Venezuela.
Ahmadinejad last visited Venezuela in September, his third trip to the country.