President Hugo Chavez defended his close ally Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday as tensions rose with the U.S. over Tehran’s nuclear program and a death sentence against an American man convicted of working for the CIA.
The two leaders met in Caracas on the first leg of a four-nation tour that will also take Ahmadinejad to Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador. “They present us as aggressors,” Chavez said of U.S. officials as he received the Iranian leader at the presidential palace.
“Iran hasn’t invaded anyone,” Chavez said. “Who has dropped thousands and thousands of bombs … including atomic bombs?”
The visit comes after the U.S. imposed tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, which Washington believes Tehran is using to develop atomic weapons. Chavez and his allies back Iran in arguing the nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes.
Adding to the tensions, Iranian state radio reported on Monday that a court in Iran has convicted dual U.S.-Iranian citizen Amir Mirzaei Hekmati of working for the CIA and sentenced him to death.
Both leaders joked that their relationship shouldn’t cause any concern.
Ahmadinejad said if they were together building anything like a bomb, “the fuel of that bomb is love.”
“We will always be together,” Ahmadinejad said through an interpreter. Smiling as he put his hand on Chavez’s arm, the Iranian leader called the Venezuelan president “the champion of fighting against imperialism.”