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Ahmadinejad's visit with Chávez likely to sour US-Venezuela relations

Hugo Chávez and his Iranian counterpart share a history of anti-US vitriol. This visit, Ahmadinejad's first since the US sanctioned Venezuela over trade with Iran, will likely add fuel to the fire.

By Girish GuptaCorrespondent / September 23, 2011

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, welcomes his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, during an official welcoming ceremony, in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 19, 2010.

Vahid Salemi/AP/File

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Caracas, Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is set Saturday to host his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a state visit likely to further sour relations between Venezuela and the United States.

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President Ahmadinejad's visit is his first since the US slapped sanctions on Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, due to its ongoing trade with Iran. And the trip comes immediately after he sparked a walk-out at New York’s UN General Assembly meeting on Thursday when he called the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks "mysterious" and a pretext for the US to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr. Chávez himself is no stranger to controversy in the UN's New York auditorium. In his 2006 speech at the Assembly, Chávez stood at the lectern the day after former US President George W. Bush had, and said, “The devil came here yesterday,” while theatrically sniffing the air. “It smells of sulfur still.” Chávez then made the sign of the cross before clasping his hands in prayer and looking to the roof of the auditorium. The Venezuelan leader went on to describe Bush’s “domination, exploitation, and pillage of the peoples of the world.”

Recent leaks of cables by whistle-blowing organization WikiLeaks reveal growing frustration in Washington with Chávez’s anti-US rhetoric in recent years. One cable describes Chávez’s repeated “vitriol” against President Barack Obama, in one instance cursing at him on national television.

Chávez was unable to attend this week's General Assembly meeting, as he underwent his fourth round of chemotherapy in Cuba. He arrived back in Caracas just before midnight on Thursday. “Successful results, satisfactory results, all the vital signals,” he said, speaking to cameras on the tarmac of Caracas’ main airport. “We have finished the chemotherapy cycle.” He can now begin preparation for presidential elections due on Oct. 7, 2012.

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