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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 September 2006, 23:35 GMT 00:35 UK
Iran and Venezuela bolster ties
President Hugo Chavez (R) and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iran is backing Venezuela's bid to join the UN Security Council
Iran and Venezuela have signed a string of bilateral agreements at the start of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to the Latin American country.

Mr Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez signed accords including oil exploration and car production.

President Chavez said the visit would strengthen the strategic alliance between the two states.

The Iranian leader was earlier welcomed to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, with full military honours.

Iran and Venezuela have emerged as leaders of a growing anti-US front of developing countries.

'Common interests'

The BBC's Greg Morsbach in Caracas says both leaders define themselves as revolutionaries and the 29 agreements they have signed are, in their own words, designed to drive forward those revolutions.

The distance between our countries may be a bit far, but the hearts and thoughts are very close
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The deals include the creation of a joint petrochemical and steel company and a shared firm for the exploration of petroleum.

In addition, Iran and Venezuela are to start building a car plant to produce affordable family cars, designed to appeal to consumers in developing nations.

Our correspondent says there has been plenty of talk by both men of creating a world without the dominance of one single power.

On arrival at Caracas airport, President Ahmadinejad took Mr Chavez's hands and said: "I salute all the revolutionaries who oppose world hegemony."

He added: "The distance between our countries may be a bit far, but the hearts and thoughts are very close.

"We have a common thinking, common interests."

'Seeking balance'

President Chavez paid tribute to Iran's Islamic form of government and said it was high time Islam was no longer demonised in the world as a religion.

Mr Chavez said the two countries sought "a union that seeks a balance in the world and to save the future of your children, my children and our grandchildren".

Iran is backing Venezuela's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Mr Ahmadinejad is expected to lobby for his nation's nuclear programme, which he insists is for peaceful purposes, at this week's UN General Assembly in New York.

The US and other Western nations fear Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons.

At the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Cuba which both leaders recently attended, Mr Chavez said he would defend Iran. He said it was "under threat" of invasion, after it ignored UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment.


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