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10 Jan, 2012 03:34

Ahmadinejad meets Chavez amidst standoff with West

Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez Monday in order to reaffirm the two countries' alliance, and defiance of the US, as Tehran’s relations with Washington deteriorate by the day.

Ahmadinejad’s visit to Caracas kicked off a four-nation tour that is also to include Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador.“Despite the arrogant people who do not wish us to be together, we will unite forever,” the Iranian president told his Venezuelan counterpart.The visit to Latin America comes after the US imposed a new, tougher round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear activities. Tehran is anticipating any further sanctions by threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial oil transit route.Adding to the tensions, Iran announced Monday that it had sentenced US-Iranian citizen Amir Mirzaei Hekmati to death after convicting him of working for the CIA, an allegation the US government denies.“The imperialist madness has been unleashed in a way that has not been seen for a long time,” Chavez said in a ceremony welcoming Ahmadinejad at his presidential palace in Caracas.Some analysts believe the trip is a move by Iran to shore up support with anti-American powers ahead of a possible military confrontation with the West over its nuclear program. Western powers, led by the US, allege that Iran is developing atomic weapons, a charge that has yet to be proven. Political analyst Eva Golinger told RT that Ahmadinejad is consolidating ties with Latin American countries with which Iran already has political and economic relationships.However, Golinger expressed doubts that Tehran and Caracas are forging an “evil anti-American relationship.” “We have to tone down a little bit the exaggeration that there is some kind of plot going on here and look at the facts – these are legitimate sovereign relationships.”Washington nevertheless does not want to see any adversaries getting closer to a region it traditionally considers to be its “backyard,” she noted. “Washington sees the relationships in Latin America that have been growing with China and Russia as a threat.”Joel Rubin, the Director of Policy and Government Affairs at the Ploughshares Fund, believes that Ahmadinejad's trip is a move to break out of the isolation other nations have forced upon Iran.“Ahmadinejad is looking for friends wherever he can find them. He needs votes at the United Nations to block future sanctions,” he told RT. “He also needs potential markets for commerce when the rest of the world looks to be moving towards a more sanctions-oriented position.”