March 11 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, hosting Iranian President
Mohammad Khatami in Caracas, said Iran can count on his support in its confrontation
with the U.S. over its nuclear program.
``Iran has every right, like many other countries, to develop its atomic energy,
to continue their investigations in this field.'' Chavez said today in a televised
speech from the presidential palace in Caracas with Khatami by his side ``We're
against the attempt to deny the Iranians this right.''
Khatami, who is on a three-day visit to Venezuela, earlier signed agreements
covering oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, housing and shipping. Iran is the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' second-largest producer while
Venezuela is the third largest.
The agreements with Iran come as Chavez, who two days ago in France repeated
his charge that the U.S. is plotting to kill him, seeks to diversify Venezuela's
oil industry away from U.S. sales through contracts with China and Argentina.
The U.S. currently buys 60 percent of Venezuela's exports.
Khatami, speaking on television before Chavez, said Venezuela and Iran are
``two nations who have decided to be free.'' He said both would resist ``any
act of aggression.''
Chavez was ousted in 2002 for two days in a coup, which the former lieutenant
colonel says the U.S. planned. The State Department denied involvement in the
coup. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said earlier this week Chavez's allegation
about a planned assassination was ``a completely ludicrous charge.''
The U.S. has accused Iran of disguising its nuclear activities, including uranium
enrichment, as a cover for building a nuclear bomb. The U.S. today agreed to
join Europe in offering Iran economic incentives to end its nuclear weapons
program, Bush administration officials said. Previously, U.S. President George
Bush said he would not rule out military options in the future to prevent Iran
from building nuclear weapons.
``Before the threats of the U.S. government against the brother nation of Iran,
you, brothers, can count on all our support, all our love, and our all solidarity,''