|Iran's President Mohammad Khatami and Venezuela's Chavez meet to strengthen ties between their two countries.|
Caracas, Venezuela, March 11, 2005—Iran’s President Mohammad Khatami, on a three-day visit to Venezuela today, signed 22 cooperation and integration agreements today in the areas of oil, gas, petrochemicals, technology, construction, and agriculture with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez. After the signing ceremony, Chavez defended Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy.
“Iran has every right, like many other countries, to develop its atomic energy, to continue its investigations in this field,'' Chavez said. “We're against the attempt to deny the Iranians this right.” He went on to offer Venezuela's assistance in the case of US aggression. "Before the threats of the government of the United States against the brother country of Iran, the Iranians can count on our support, our affection, and our solidarity."
Recently, although as a signer of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran has pursued its right to produce low-enriched uranium with the purpose of fueling commercial nuclear reactors. The United States, however, speculates that Iran intends to produce highly-enriched uranium with the purpose of creating nuclear weapons.
According to Chavez, the agreements Iran and Venezuela signed are designed to strengthen South-South relations and advance the construction of a multipolar world. William Izarra, Venezuela's Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia and the Middle East, said, "Many of the deals that were being signed focus on sharing technology…Iran controls technology that has allowed them to assume a position of self-sufficiency, and they are willing to give it to us."
Since Chávez was elected in 1998, he has maintained close relations with Iran and the other nine members of OPEC as a means of strengthening the organization. Three months ago the Iranian Vice-Minister of Industry, Valialla Afjami, visited Caracas and signed a series of agreements involving the sale machines and technology in the areas of agriculture, petrochemicals, construction and healthcare. During President Chávez’s forth visit to Iran in November, 2004, he and Khatami signed various energy, commercial, agricultural and cultural agreements cooperation agreements.
Yet the Iranian President's third visit to Venezuela in five years went beyond the economic agreements they signed in that it showed that both nations have also found common ground on two fronts: their quest to keep oil prices up and in their political will to create a multipolar world. The latter has further deepened their ties as the two nations find themselves higher and higher on the United States’ black list.
Iran and Venezuela, both founding members of OPEC, cemented cooperation in the energy sector by signing an “Agreement of Mutual Cooperation of Joint Projects in Energy and Hydrocarbons" and by creating a binational fund for the financing of development. A letter of intention to initiate a strategic alliance between the Venezuelan Cooperation of Guyana and the Iranian Group Idro was also signed, which will permit cooperation in the production, assembly, commercialization, and exportation of passenger and freight vehicles.
The Iranian Development Bank of Exports and the Venezuelan Commercial Bank of the Exterior, also committed themselves to open two lines of credit, for $16 million and $10 million, respectively. Iran conveyed its solidarity with Venezuela by signing an agreement to construct 10,000 homes in Venezuela.
The two presidents, along with several delegations and ministers, met in the presidential palace of Mirafloresto discuss follow-up strategies and to evaluate the progress of their agreements and alliances. Chávez then honored Khatami with an honorary medal, of the Order of the Liberator ("Collar de la Orden del Libertador").
Tomorrow the Iranian President will travel with Chávez to the southeastern city of Ciudad Bolívar to inaugurate Veniran Tractor, a tractor assembly plant that has the capacity to produce up to 5,000 tractors per year. The plant is a joint venture between Corporation Venezolana de Guayana and the Iran Tractor Manufacturing Co. and is part of Chávez's strategy to develop agriculture and industry in the southern region of Venezuela.The meeting comes just five days before an OPEC meeting is scheduled to discuss record high oil prices.