Venezuela's Chavez to welcome ally Ahmadinejad
By Daniel Wallis
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dismissed a U.S. warning to avoid close ties with Iran on Sunday, denouncing what he said was Washington's attempt to dominate the world as he prepared to welcome the Iranian president to the Latin American nation.
Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to arrive at the start of a tour to shore up support from the region's leftist leaders, as tough new Western sanctions aim to isolate the Islamic Republic and target its vital oil exports.
"A spokesman or spokeswoman in Washington from the State Department or the White House said it was not convenient for any country to get close to Iran. Well, the truth is, it made you laugh," Chavez said in a televised speech.
"They're not going to be able to dominate this world. Forget about it (President Barack) Obama, forget about it. It would be better to think about the problems in your country, which are many," he said.
"We are free. The people of Latin America will never again kneel, dominated by the Imperial Yankee. Never again," he said, to applause from his audience at an oil processing facility.
Obama signed new measures into law on New Year's Eve that will make it harder for most countries to buy Iranian oil.
The European Union is also expected to announce some type of ban on Iranian oil by the end of this month, and Washington has said that Ahmadinejad's planned tour of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador showed Iran was "desperate" for friends.
"We are making absolutely clear to countries around the world that now is not the time to be deepening ties, not security ties, not economic ties, with Iran," a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said on Friday. Continued...