IRAN AND VENEZUELA CALLED FOR GREATER COOPERATION

Tehran- 22 May (IPS) Iran reinforced further its position in Latin America when, at the end of a three days State visit by the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the two countries stressed the "need" to oppose all forms of imperialism and oppression on the third world countries by bigger powers.

Commenting on the visit, the Foreign Ministry’s senior spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the visits to Tehran of Cuban Leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will help Iran further broaden its relations with Latin America.

"We give an upbeat assessment of the two visits and maintain that they would serve the interests of all sides", Mr. Asefi was quoted by the official news agency IRNA as having said.

Mr. Chavez followed the Cuban leader, who was in Tehran early this month of May and decided with the Iranian leaders to jointly combat the United States.

Mr. Chavez has friendly relations with Communist Cuba, but unlike Tehran and Havana, maintains also close relations with Washington, that has imposed trade embargo against both Islamic Republic and Communist Cuba.

The Venezuelan President arrived in Iran Friday, starting his visit with a tour of Iranian industrial sites, particularly the oil installations.

He is on a three-week tour of seven nations that has taken him to Russia before Iran and would include Indonesia, Malaysia and China.

Venezuela currently holds the rotating presidency of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

"Given the membership of Iran, Cuba and Venezuela to the Group of 77 developing countries and Non-Aligned Movement, it is natural that they can cooperate in different fields", the Iraqi-born Asefi said.
Like the Lider Maxim, President Chavez met all senior tenors of Iranian leadership, including the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the Chairman of the Expediency Council Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Speaker of the Majles (parliament) Mehdi karroubi and of course, the embattled President Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami.

Denouncing the US "hegemony" and stressing on Iran’s opposition to "all forms of pressure and oppression", the staunchly anti-US Khameneh'i noted that Latin American countries resist the hegemony of the United States thanks to the support of their people.

"Latin America has a profound and independent identity and culture and must be protected", he further observed said.

Chavez for his part stressed that the war against imperialism and hegemony was a "common point" between Iran and Venezuela.

Latter, Iranian President and his Venezuelan counterpart issued a joint statement in which they called on the United Nations to play a "more effective role" in support of the Palestinian nation.

The two presidents stressed that the establishment of the stability and security as well as regional and international development would be possible "only through the effective co-operation" among the states.

They condemned any act or measure by any country that would jeopardize the regional and international security and would lead to the arm race among the world powers.

The two presidents declared opposition to the multiplication of the weaponry of mass destruction, which they said, would threaten the international peace and stability.

They expressed support for the fundamental human rights and non-interference in countries internal affairs aimed at realisation of political and economic objectives.

Expressing their satisfaction over the ongoing trend of the cooperation among OPEC members, they underlined the importance of bilateral co-operations within the Organisation and announced their support for each other's moves in this regard.

Both Iran and Venezuela are members of OPEC.

Earlier in the today, the two countries had inked three agreements to boost bilateral co-operation in the political, economic and cultural fields.

According to a memorandum of understanding signed at the former Imperial Palace of Sa’dabad in the push northern Tehran by Chavez and Khatami, the two states are to set up a high commission on expansion of the bilateral political, economic, cultural and scientific relations between the two countries, according to IRNA.

Another agreement was signed by ministers of science and technology of both countries Mostafa Moin and Genatios to boost the cooperation in the area of science and technology.

Meanwhile, Mayor of Tehran and Caracas, Morteza Alviri and Feri Beranal signed a document to call the two metropolises twin towns.

Asked if OPEC would intervene stopping the soaring prices of oil, Mr Chavez said there was no reason for OPEC to increase its output, saying that the industrial world’s reserves were at maximum.

Informed sources said while in Iran, Mr. Chavez had conferred and consulted with Saudi and Iranian oil ministers, who had told him to keep the prices steady.

Crude hit Monday 30 US Dollars per barrel, amid western consumers expressing worries about high inflation and an economic down turn. ENDS IRAN VENEZUELA 22501