TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received his close Latin American ally Hugo Chavez on Tuesday and welcomed the Venezuelan president's support against the Islamic Republic's western "bullies."
Both men are eyed with great suspicion by the United States which has led tougher international sanctions against Iran over the nuclear programme Washington fears would lead to a bomb.
The leaders of the two major oil exporters inspected a guard of honour before heading into talks which Iranian media said were aimed at boosting cooperation in the oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors.
"The progressive and fraternal stance of Venezuela in condemning sanctions against Iran imposed by the bullying powers is indicative of the deep and firm ties between the two countries," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the student news agency ISNA.
Chavez is on a 10-day tour of Europe and the Middle East and he secured while in Moscow on Friday Russia's agreement to build Venezuela's first nuclear power plant.
A Russian-built reactor is due to start providing Iran's first nuclear power early next year as part of a move into nuclear technology that Tehran says will allow it to export more of its fossil fuels. Iran denies it is seeking a nuclear bomb.