CARACAS (JTA) — Hugo Chavez expects Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Venezuela by the end of the year, the Venezuelan president said.
Chavez made the announcement concerning Iran’s president, a key ally, on his weekly television and radio broadcast "Alo Presidente" while flanked by Iran’s ambassador to Venezuela, Amad Sobani. Chavez visited Ahmadinejad in Tehran in September.
Venezuela has deepened its ties with Iran in recent years, exchanging official visits and signing numerous agreements to cement economic, political and military cooperation. Both nations are strident critics of the United States and Israel.
"Iran is attacked like us by the empire," Chavez said during the program, referring to the United States. "We are accused of exporting terrorism, but they are the killers."
Iran’s spreading influence in South America is causing concern both in the United States and Israel. The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Latin America subcommittee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), recently convened a meeting on the topic.
Israeli President Shimon Peres is expected to raise those concerns during an official visit to Brazil and Argentina, which are home to the largest Jewish populations in South America.
Israel has not had diplomatic relations with Venezuela since January, when Chavez kicked out the Israeli delegation to protest Israel’s war with Gaza.