Iranian President kicks off Latin tour
CARACAS / WASHINGTONIranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began a four-nation Latin American tour Jan. 8 aiming to show off relationships with allies as tensions grow over Iran’s nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad smiled and waved but made no comments as he stepped off a plane Jan. 8 evening at Simon Bolivar International Airport near Caracas. He was greeted by Vice President Elias Jaua and other Venezuelan officials. The Iranian leader was scheduled to meet yesterday with his longtime ally President Hugo Chavez. Several hours before Ahmadinejad’s arrival, Chavez rebuffed calls by U.S. officials for countries to insist that Iran stop defying international efforts to assess its nuclear program.
“What the empire does is make you laugh, in its desperation to do something they won’t be able to do: dominate this world,” Chavez said. He praised Iran’s military industry, noting that it has long-range missiles. Ahmadinejad will also travel to Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador.
US orders expulsion of Venezuelan consul
The United States meanwhile has ordered the expulsion of Venezuela’s consul general in Miami amid reports linking the diplomat to an alleged Iranian plot to target sensitive U.S. facilities with cyber attacks, the U.S. State Department said Jan. 8.
In Caracas, Chavez made no mention of the consul’s expulsion in his Jan. 8’s radio and TV program but accused Washington of “inventing” Iranian plots to attack the United States from Latin American countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. The Venezuelan embassy in Washington was notified Jan. 6 that Livia Acosta Noguera, the consul general in Miami, had been declared persona non grata and had until today to leave the country, said State Department spokesman William Ostick.