Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega on Tuesday urged Israel to destroy its nuclear weapons to foster peace in the Middle East as he hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is touring Latin America.
Speaking in a ceremony where he was sworn in for a second consecutive term in office, Ortega attacked the U.S. “occupation” of Afghanistan and Iraq, condemned the killing of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and offered a brief valediction to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Ortega – flanked by his close ally, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez – defended Iran’s stated intention to develop atomic energy for peaceful ends, an explanation Western powers say is a cover for a nuclear weapons program.
“Simply by starting to push for talks in the region in which the steps are laid down for Israel to give up and destroy these nuclear arms, I’m certain this would bring about great peace in the region,” the former Marxist guerrilla said.
Instead, western powers are ignoring those with nuclear weapons and threatening a country which only wanted atomic energy for peaceful purposes, Ortega added, pointing to Iran.
“Christ never said: Israel arm yourself, arm yourself to the teeth,” said Ortega, whose speech moved swiftly from one topic to the next, backed by a musical accompaniment of strummed guitars and chanting peppered with rapped shouts.
Ortega, 66, suspended diplomatic ties with Israel in 2010 in protest after Israeli commandos staged a deadly raid on a flotilla trying to break a blockade of Gaza.
Israel, which Ahmadinejad once said should we wiped off the map, is believed to have nuclear weapons. But it has never formally admitted to possessing them.
Ahmadinejad is visiting leftist leaders in Latin America known for their antagonism to the United States. His visit comes after the Islamic Republic fanned tensions with western powers by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil shipping lane, in response to possible new sanctions over its nuclear plans.