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Chavez: Iran Has "Right" to Nuke Program By: Fabiola Sanchez
Associated Press | Monday, March 14, 2005

Venezuela's maverick President Hugo Chavez said Friday that Iran has a "right" to a nuclear energy program and he would back the Middle Eastern country up in its dispute with the United States over what Washington sees as an attempt by Tehran to obtain atomic bombs.
"Iran has the right to develop its atomic energy like any other country in the world and continue its investigations in this field," Chavez said during meetings with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. "Venezuela and Iran agree in firmly rejecting the imperialist policy of the United States."

Government ministers from both countries also signed 20 agreements to cooperate in projects from oil exploration to a tractor assembly plant, but Chavez talked most about the countries' common troubles with the United States.

Khatami said both governments "are firm against any aggression that could come up."

The United States has repeatedly voiced concerns about Iran's nuclear program and has criticized what Chavez's opponents call a drift toward dictatorship.

"Iran, confronted by the United States, has our solidarity," said Chavez, a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy and close ally of Cuba's Fidel Castro. "Like you, we are willing to be free from imperialism."

"Iran and Venezuela, these two brothers, are and will be together forever," Chavez said after the talks at Miraflores Presidential Palace.

Chavez said leading "revolutions" is the only manner of opposing U.S. hegemony in world affairs. Without referring to the United States, Khatami said both nations "have decided to be free.

U.S. officials did not immediately comment on the meeting between Khatami and Chavez, which came five days before an Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries summit in Iran where members will meet amid record high oil prices.

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