Last updated: 19 June, 2012

Iran president visits Bolivia

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Bolivia for a brief visit with President Evo Morales Tuesday, before continuing on to Brazil for the UN summit on sustainable development.

Ahmadinejad arrived at 11:20 am local time (1520 GMT) at the El Alto airport in La Paz, where he was greeted by Morales, and the two leader immediately departed for the Quemado presidential palace, according to an official statement.

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said the leaders would formalize an accord on increasing cooperation between the two nations, which the Iranian embassy in La Paz described as “entering a new stage.”

The embassy statement notes that Tehran “has realized several infrastructure projects” in Bolivia since normalizing relations with the South American nation in 2007 as part of a bid to increase its sway in South America.

Under escalating pressure from the West over its disputed nuclear program, Iran has sought closer political and economic relations with countries far and wide, including many in Latin America.

Ahmadinejad will meet in Caracas with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez after the Rio+20 conference in Brazil.

This third visit to La Paz by Ahmadinejad comes on the second day of talks in Moscow to solve an impasse efforts to get Iran to scale down the intensity of its sensitive uranium enrichment activities.

The Islamic republic has stuck rigidly to its refusal to give major concessions on its right to uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear fuel but also the core of an atomic bomb.

The Moscow meeting, between a group known as the P5+1 (the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China), was billed as part of last chance diplomacy to achieve a negotiated outcome to the showdown over Tehran’s nuclear program.