Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stopped in Bolivia Tuesday en route to a summit in Brazil, to court support from another leftist Latin American nation which has tense ties with the United States.
Ahmadinejad had a warm welcome at the airport high in the Andes from his Bolivian counterpart President Evo Morales. Then they headed to the Palacio Quemado presidential palace to hold meetings on cooperation deals.
Bilateral cooperation investment in recent years has topped one billion dollars with projects in farming, mining, oil and gas, and health care.
Iran also is considering mining lithium at Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the world’s biggest deposit of the mineral used in laptop and electric car batteries.
Three indigenous people’s groups close to the government — Morales is Bolivia’s first democratically elected indigenous president — issued a statement of support for Ahmadinejad and his solidarity with South America’s poorest nation.
Iran has courted warm ties with Latin leftists who are critical of the US role in international relations. Topping the list is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as well as Morales and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
“The long age of colonial exploitation is the result of the attitude and actions of greedy governments and states that want to stop others from developing, and from exercising freedom,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech alongside Morales.
At his airport welcome more than 100 indigenous protesters waved Bolivian and Iranian flags, with one local farmer holding a banner reading “Yes to Iran’s nuclear program.”
The visit came as Iran and world powers failed to narrow differences over the Iran’s nuclear program after talks in Moscow held amid threats of a crippling oil embargo or even military action against Tehran.
Iran’s negotiating team and world powers led by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton nevertheless kept talks alive by agreeing a process for future meetings. The Moscow meeting was seen as a crucial last test for the viability of talks.
The summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is a 10-day Conference on Sustainable Development, the 20-year followup to the 1992 Earth Summit that is a landmark in environmentalism.
After that meeting, the Iranian president was due to visit Chavez in Venezuela.