Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez traveled to Iran on Tuesday to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and discuss energy cooperation. On the agenda: the formation of a joint oil transportation company and the possible construction of petrochemical plants. While Chávez has already traveled to Iran nine times since taking office in 1999, Tuesday’s two-day visit is part of a multinational tour to strengthen Venezuela’s relationships with Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries.
Local Iranian television covered Chávez’ arrival, where he was greeted by Minister of Industry and Mining Alí Akbar Mehrabian. In a televised statement, Chávez reiterated his support for Iran’s controversial nuclear program, and criticized the “unfair sanctions imposed on the people of Iran” by the United Nations. The UN, the United States and many of its allies have said that Iran’s nuclear proliferation program seeks to produce weapon-grade material. Ahmedinijad and other Irani officials maintain that the uranium enrichment program is solely for energy purposes.
Chávez also took the opportunity to defend his own domestic energy agenda, which includes building a nuclear power plant in Venezuela. The plan has attracted widespread criticism from the U.S. in particular. But Chávez has dismissed the remarks as “the same story of the [American] empire and all of its worldwide networks to try to impede the independence of our people.”