- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2007

QUITO, Ecuador (Agence France-Presse) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to aid Ecuador and other Latin American nations to defend themselves against the United States yesterday as he attended the presidential inauguration of Rafael Correa.

“Any nation seeking to defend itself can count on Iranian aid,” he said in Quito.

“We are partisans of peace. It is the Americans who are at war with the entire world,” he said through a translator.

Mr. Ahmadinejad attended Mr. Correa’s swearing-in ceremony while on a tour of Latin American capitals on a trip designed to cultivate Washington’s critics and rally backing for Tehran’s nuclear program, which the U.S. government insists conceals ambitions to build nuclear weapons.

He joined many foreign dignitaries, including regional leftist Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia, at the inauguration of Mr. Correa, himself a leftist economist.

Iran, Venezuela and Ecuador are all oil-producing countries. Iran and Venezuela combined produce about 6.5 million barrels of oil per day, less than 10 percent of the world’s total and substantially less than Saudi Arabia alone at 9 million barrels per day. Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are two of the top suppliers to the United States.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who had just come from Nicaragua, which he promised Iranian aid, said he will invite Mr. Correa to visit Iran.

“We are interested in strengthening our relations with Latin America, especially with Ecuador, as well as with other countries of the world,” Mr. Ahmadinejad told reporters in Quito.

On Sunday, the Iranian president held talks in Managua with newly elected Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a Cold War-era foe of the United States.

The two leaders announced the restoration of full diplomatic relations and the reopening of embassies in each other’s capitals.

“Rest assured that we will improve our relations to the point of fulfilling every wish and thing that we desire. It is our will to walk hand in hand,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said after meeting with Mr. Ortega.

The Iranian president stopped earlier in Venezuela, where he signed commercial agreements with Mr. Chavez, an outspoken critic of President Bush and advocate for Tehran’s disputed nuclear program. Each proclaimed the other an ideological “brother.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad said the two countries had the task of “promoting revolutionary thought in the world.”

“The reason for all the current problems is the erroneous direction of the powerful countries, where there is poverty, hatred, enmity and war,” he said Saturday.

Western powers determined to end Iran’s enrichment of uranium in December secured a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Tehran. Iran says the nuclear work is for peaceful uses, while the West suspects it could be used to build bombs.

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