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Ahmadinejad Visits Venezuela to Boost Business Ties


Venezuela is the latest stop of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regional tour aimed at boosting ties with supporters of Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in Venezuela on the latest stop of a regional tour aimed at boosting ties with supporters of Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Mr. Ahmadinejad arrived in Caracas late Tuesday and was welcomed at the airport by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.

The Iranian president and his Venezuelan ally, President Hugo Chavez, are due to meet Wednesday. Both leaders are known for their anti-American rhetoric. They are expected to discuss business cooperation between their two nations.

Mr. Ahmadinejad was in Bolivia's capital, La Paz, earlier Tuesday for talks with Bolivian President Evo Morales, another Iranian ally. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have backed Iran's nuclear program, saying Tehran has a right to peace nuclear energy.

Western nations suspect Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and have demanded that it stop sensitive nuclear work.

An organization representing Venezuela's Jewish community, the Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela - CAIV, issued a statement denouncing the visit of the Iranian president, citing his denial of the Holocaust and calls for Israel's demise.

The organization described Mr. Ahmadinejad as an "ominous character" who could do serious harm to humanity. Earlier, members of Bolivia's Jewish community staged a hunger strike to protest Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit.

The Iranian president received Bolivian military honors as he arrived Tuesday in La Paz. Later, he oversaw the signing of an agreement with Bolivia that calls for their countries to work together on studying Bolivia's lithium reserves.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is on a five-nation overseas tour that began in the West African nation of Gambia and continued in Brazil. He is due to return to Africa to end the tour with a visit to Senegal.

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