Visit to Venezuela by Iran’s Ahmadinejad postponed

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela and Iran postponed a visit to Caracas yesterday by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez recovered from a fourth round of cancer treatment, officials said.

Venezuelan Foreign Ministry Nicolas Maduro said Chavez and Ahmadinejad, allied by their anti-Washington sentiments, would reschedule their meeting.

“We will be waiting for the full recovery schedule for President Hugo Chavez’s health so that in the coming weeks, maybe in the coming months, to have our dear brother President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad here seeing the realization of the projects we are now agreeing on,” Maduro said late Friday.

Officials from both countries on Friday signed cooperation deals on manufacturing, energy, construction and agriculture during talks in Caracas.

Chavez returned on Thursday from Cuba, where he underwent a fourth round of chemotherapy. In June he had surgery in Havana to remove a baseball-sized tumour from his pelvis.

The close ties between Chavez and Ahmadinejad have exacerbated tensions between Caracas and Washington.

“While imperialism and its criminal elites have declared war on the Muslim people since more than 10 years ago, we in the Bolivarian Revolution, led by President Chavez, declare our love for the culture of Muslim people, all their history, and declare our eternal brotherhood,” Maduro said.

Chavez and Ahmadinejad, who was in the United States for this week’s meeting of the UN General Assembly, have developed close commercial and political ties in recent years and their countries are allies in the OPEC group.

US President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA in May for sending Iran two tankers of an oil product in defiance of US law.

He faces pressure from US conservatives to impose tougher measures if Venezuela continues to ignore US restrictions aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear programme.

Chavez frequently accuses right-wing US politicians of demonizing ideological opponents, including Iran and Venezuela, as a pretext for aggression, including possible invasions.

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