Chavez: Iran won't end quest for peaceful nuclear energy
Venezuela president in Tehran after visit to Syria, where he told Israelis: Disobey 'genocidal' government.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in remarks broadcast Saturday that Iran will "not back down" in its quest for peaceful nuclear energy, French news agency AFP reported.
Chavez, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's main ally in Latin America, arrived in Iran Friday after visiting Syria, Libya and Algeria.
The visit comes one day after Ahmadinejad said that Iran will not bow to pressure in meeting any deadline set by world powers and is ready for more sanctions over its nuclear program.
Chavez on Friday told the Israeli people not to support their government, which he described as genocidal, during the second day of his trip to Syria.
Chavez is on an 11-day trip to Libya, Algeria, Syria, Iran, Belarus, Russia and Spain in what he is describing as a bid to build a multipolar world and decrease U.S. influence in the region.
The Venezuelan president has singled out Israel for criticism during his visit to Syria, slamming it for mistreating the Palestinians and being an agent of U.S. imperialism.
"The state of Israel has become a murderous lackey at the service of imperialism," Chavez said. "It's a genocidal government. I condemn that Zionist government that persecutes the heroic Palestinian people."
Chavez, whose remarks were broadcast by state television in Venezuela, added that the people of Israel shouldn't support a genocidal government.
Chavez spoke in front of about 10,000 people who gathered at a football stadium in the city of Sweida, some 110 kilometers south of Damascus, near the Jordanian border.
More than 200,000 people from the Sweida area carry Venezuelan citizenship and most are members of Syria's Druse sect, who immigrated to Venezuela in the past century.
Chavez later inaugurated a public garden in the city, naming it after 19th century Latin American independence leader Simon Bolivar.
The firebrand Latin American leader has built close ties with Iran, Syria, Cuba and other countries while his relations have grown tense with Israel.
Chavez strongly criticized Israel's war against Gaza in December and January and said that Israel should return to Syria the strategic Golan Heights that it captured in 1967 Mideast war.
Chavez also called for Israel to "take its hands off Latin America also. Because there the U.S. empire is trying to turn Colombia... into the Israel of Latin America."
Venezuela and Colombia have been feuding for weeks over negotiations between the Colombian government and Washington that would allow the U.S. military to increase its presence at seven Colombian bases through a 10-year lease agreement.
Chavez calls the pending deal a threat to Venezuela. Colombia says it's necessary to more effectively help fight drug traffickers and leftist rebels.
Chavez arrived in Tehran Friday and praised Iran for standing up to he said were western forces attempts to destabilize it after the elections there.
The Iranian opposition alleges the country's June 12 election was rigged in Ahmadinejad's favor and that pro-reform challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi was the true winner.
After the election, Iranian security forces, including the Revolutionary Guard and pro-government Basij militia, crushed mass street protests against Ahmadinejad's re-election in a heavy crackdown that prompted heavy criticism from the West.