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Hugo Chávez embraces Iran and Syria, wins Russian support for nuclear program

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is in the midst of one of his world tours, making friends with US enemies and getting support for his country's nascent nuclear program.

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The previous day in Tehran, Chávez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said they also were committed to forming a “new world order.” The two were also reported to have signed a series of deals to promote industrial cooperation. In Russia, Chávez secured a deal that will help the South American nation build its first nuclear power plant.

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The US has largely dismissed this trip – even though the nuclear plant deal has raised some eyebrows in Washington.

Standing with Iran

"I should use the opportunity to condemn those military threats that are being made against Iran," Chávez said at a joint news conference with Mr. Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Wednesday, before flying to Damascus. "We know that they will never be able to restrict the Islamic revolution in whatever way.... We will always stand together, we will not only resist, we will also stand victorious beside one another."

Ahmadinejad, for his part, said Iran and Venezuela were part of a revolutionary front "stretching all the way to East Asia" from Latin America. "If one day, my brother Mr. Chávez and I and a few other people were once alone in the world, today we have a long line of revolutionary officials and people standing alongside each other," Ahmadinejad said, according to Reuters.

Such statements are largely seen as an attempt by Iran to show that it is not isolated, despite a push by Washington for tougher sanctions against Iran's nuclear activities. The US fears Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear bomb, though Iran insists it merely wants a peaceful nuclear energy program.

Can US allow a nuclear Venezuela?

Chávez is saying the same, after firming up plans with Russia to build a nuclear power plant. He would not be alone in the region. Many countries, including Brazil, have been using nuclear power for decades.

The US did not take issue with the news, but some observers say it should. Ray Walser, a Latin America analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, says that there is a fissure between security hawks, like himself, and those who say the US need not panic.

The White House says, we will just tell Mr. Chávez to act responsibly,” says Mr. Walser. “But responsible does not seem to be part of the words in the character description of Mr. Chávez.”

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