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Chavez Says Iran's Ahmadinejad to Visit Venezuela

Wednesday, 14 Sep 2011 11:03 PM

 

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* First visit since US sanctioned Venezuela over Iran ties

* Chavez says Iranian to visit after UN general assembly

By Deisy Buitrago

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez said Wednesday that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would visit the South American country this month, a move that could exacerbate tensions between Caracas and Washington.

The leftist Venezuelan president told reporters his Iranian counterpart would visit after next week's meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

"After New York, he's coming here," Chavez said, without giving more details.

Both fierce anti-U.S. ideologues, Ahmadinejad and Chavez have become close political and commercial allies in recent years. The two countries are allies within OPEC.

U.S. President Barack Obama hit Venezuela's state-oil company, PDVSA, with sanctions in May for sending Iran two tankers of an oil-blending component in defiance of U.S. law.

The measures were largely symbolic and it is in both countries' interests not to seriously interrupt oil supplies.

Chavez will not attend the General Assembly due to ill health. Having been operated on for cancer in June, he is set to start a fourth round of chemotherapy in the days ahead.

Obama has faced pressure from conservatives in Congress to impose tougher measures if Venezuela keeps ignoring U.S. restrictions designed to limit Iran's nuclear program.

If Iran-Venezuela oil and investment ties deepen, Obama could take more measures, possibly excluding PDVSA from the U.S. financial system. That would affect Venezuelan debt, or in the worst-case scenario, limit imports from Venezuela. (Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Peter Cooney)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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