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Iran, Venezuela Strengthen Alliance

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have inaugurated a joint oil well project in Venezuela's Orinoco River basin as they strengthen bilateral ties.

The tour Monday took place one day after President Ahmadinejad praised President Chavez for his opposition to the United States, saying Iran and Venezuela have common thoughts, objectives and interests.

Both leaders attended the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Cuba last week that ended with a declaration supporting Iran's right to peacefully use nuclear technology. On Sunday, Mr. Chavez said Iran is not using its nuclear program to create weapons, and called on the U.S. to destroy its own arsenal.

Venezuelan and Iranian officials signed more than 30 cooperation agreements Sunday, including one that creates a $2-billion fund to finance joint energy projects.

Both countries are major oil producers and members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Chavez are attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week. Iran supports Venezuela's desire for a rotating seat on the 15-nation U.N. Security Council. Washington is opposed.

The Bush administration has labeled Mr. Chavez as a destabilizing factor in Latin America, and accuses Mr. Ahmadinejad of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.