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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
Iran's red carpet for Castro
Fidel Castro and Mohammad Khatami
Mr Castro (left) praised Iran for standing up to the US
Cuban President Fidel Castro has been warmly received in Tehran by his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Khatami.

Mr Castro - on his first visit to Iran - was welcomed in grand style with a guard of honour at the former imperial palace, before the two leaders started their first round of talks.


Iran is an epic country of revolutions, culture and civilisations. I feel at home over here

Fidel Castro
Their discussions were expected to focus on bilateral co-operation and new ways to improve the effectiveness of the G-77 group of developing nations, which is currently headed by Iran.

It was not clear whether the two leaders would discuss oil, an important domestic issue for Havana, although the Cuban leader said his visit was "political and cultural" rather than commercial.

Mr Castro is expected to pay his respects at the mausoleum of the man who led Iran's Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, on the first day of his three-day visit.

The visit will also include talks with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi.

Common enemy

On arrival, Mr Castro praised Iran as a "pioneer on the road of independence and liberty" and for its anti-imperialist struggle since the 1979 revolution, a reference to its anti-US stance.

Both Cuba and Iran are under US trade embargoes. Both are listed by the superpower as sponsors of state terrorism.

Mr Khatami said that Iran had been waiting for Mr Castro to pay a visit since the revolution.

"Our nation has great affection for the people of Cuba and Mr Castro's presence here today comes after 22 years of waiting," he said.

The trip follows President Khatami's official visit to Havana last September after the Opec summit in Venezuela.

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See also:

30 Sep 00 | Americas
Castro welcomes Khatami
21 Sep 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
29 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Cuba
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