Iran and Venezuela deepen 'strategic alliance'

President Chavez embraces President Ahmadinejad in Tehran The two leaders refer to each other as brothers

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The presidents of Iran and Venezuela have promised to deepen their "strategic alliance" against US "imperialism".

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a two-day visit to Iran.

Referring to each other as brothers, the two leaders said no one could stop them strengthening ties.

Mr Ahmadinejad said they would build a "new world order" free of US domination.

Mr Chavez condemned international sanctions and "military threats" against Iran over its nuclear programme.

Both leaders said they were convinced that the age of Western domination was coming to an end.

"Imperialism has reached a decisive phase of decline and is headed, like an elephant, to its graveyard", Mr Chavez said.

"The enemies of our nations will go one day", said Mr Ahmadinejad.

"This is the promise of God and the promise of God will definitely be fulfilled".

The two leaders looked on as officials signed a number of agreements on co-operation in areas including oil and gas, trade and construction.

Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, said it was forming a joint shipping venture with Iran to deliver Venezuelan oil to markets in Europe and Asia.

After Mr Chavez visited a new town development outside Tehran, Iranian officials offered to help Venezuela build similar public housing projects.

Opec allies

Mr Chavez has been a regular visitor to Tehran over the past decade.

He and Mr Ahmadinejad have forged a close relationship based on their strong opposition to the US.

Iran and Venezuela are both major oil producers, and they have co-operated closely in the oil exporting cartel, Opec.

Mr Chavez has been a strong opponent of international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.

The US and other Western powers believe Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its programme is aimed at generating energy and medical isotopes.

Before arriving in Iran, Mr Chavez was in Moscow, where he secured Russian help to build a nuclear plant in Venezuela.

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