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Anti-US Allies Strengthen Ties
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Venezuela and Iran strengthened their growing ties on Saturday with a stream of anti-US statements, various commercial agreements and a pledge to push for a cut in world oil supplies to counter plunging prices.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez blamed the United States, the archfoe of both Caracas and Teheran, for undermining the significance of the OPEC cartel to bring down oil prices, which have tumbled 15 percent this year during a mild US winter.

"We agreed this afternoon to increase our coordinated efforts in OPEC and with the major oil producers outside OPEC to safeguard the price of our main product," Chavez said at a meeting in Caracas with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Today we know there is too much oil in the market and we will support decisions taken to cut production and safeguard the oil price."

Iran is the world's fourth-biggest oil exporter, while Venezuela, according to US data, has slumped to eighth place from fifth. Still, both countries are significant OPEC voices.

Ahmadinejad and Chavez, two ex-soldiers who came to power on populist platforms, have developed a close personal relationship, often hailing each other as "brother."

Chavez has backed Ahmadinejad in his battle with the international community over Iran's nuclear program, which last month led to limited UN sanctions.

While the US accuses Iran of seeking to build atomic weapons, Chavez has insisted that Teheran wants to use nuclear technology only to generate electricity. Chavez and Ahmadinejad did not address the issue on Saturday.

Revolutionary reading

Chavez presented Ahmadinejad with a Persian translation of a book on Simon Bolivar, the 19th-century Venezuelan founding father. In turn, Chavez received a book on the father of the 1979 Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

"Our two revolutions are at heart the same," Chavez said, comparing Iran's overthrow of the Shah with his self-styled socialist movement, which was boosted this week by a slew of nationalizations.

Ahmadinejad also focused on injustice and poverty in the developing world, laying the blame at Washington's door.

"All this is the work of the superpower," he said.

To emphasize their socialist credentials, the leaders said they had agreed to establish a US$2 billion fund for projects they are involved in across the developing world.

Chavez quoted Bolivian President Evo Morales as saying "Death to American imperialism." When that was translated into Persian as the "Death to America" catchphrase of Iranian demonstrations, the Iranian delegation broke into applause.

On a more commercial level, Iranian oil company Petropars signed deals to take on more work in certification, exploration and oilfield development in Venezuela.

Officials also signed contracts to expand cooperation in agriculture, construction and tourism.

In a media deal, the two nations drew up a partnership agreement between their state news agencies, Venezuela's ABN and Iran's IRNA.

(China Daily via agencies January 15, 2007)

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