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Iranian President on Four-Nation Tour of Latin America

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is touring Latin America this week, visiting four nations that have friendly ties with the Islamic republic. He stopped Monday in Venezuela.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad got red carpet treatment on his arrival in Caracas where he often goes to see President Hugo Chavez.

Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington explains what prompts the offical visit to Venezuela - Mr. Ahmedinejad's  sixth in about as many years.

"He has fewer and fewer friends in the world," said Shifter. "So he's trying to reinforce the few ties that he has."

Iran has become increasingly isolated over widespread suspicions that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

The United States alleges Iran also is a sponsor of international terrorism.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Iran should have no friends.

"We are making absolutely clear to countries around the world that now is not the time to be deepening ties, not security ties, not economic ties, with Iran," said Nuland.

So why are Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Raul Castro of Cuba and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa doing just that?

Again Michael Shifter:

"These are countries that are not going to reject the possibility of trade or investment with any country, so they are hoping it will help them on the economic front, and also it gives them a chance to stand up to the United States," h said.

But Shifter says Mr. Ahmadinejad's itinerary lacks any of the continent's major economic powers, including Brazil - which welcomed him just two years ago.


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

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