Iranian President Arrives in Cuba; U.S. Warns of ‘Dangerous Alliance’

Ahmadinejad’s Latin America tour seen as effort side-step international tensions and find new markets as the European Union considers an outright embargo on Iranian oil.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Cuba Wednesday for a brief visit that is the third stop in his Latin American tour.

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Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) gestures to the media next to Cuba's Vice president Esteban Lazo at Havana's Jose Marti Airport January 11, 2012. Credit: Reuters

Ahmadinejad was to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro later Wednesday, after lecturing at the University of Havana. Cuban diplomatic sources in Havana said that Ahmadinejad also has plans to meet with historic Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

As he arrived in the communist island in the Caribbeann, Ahmadinejad lifted two fingers in a sign of victory. He was coming in from Nicaragua, where he attended Daniel Ortega's inauguration for a further presidential term late Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Wednesday that “Iran and Cuba are both state-sponsors of terrorism, and need to be treated as immediate threats to our national security.” According to the statement, “just as the Iranian regime has rejected every overture by the Administration, the Castro regime will never be coddled into changing its ways.”

At a time of tension in the oil-transport corridor of the Strait of Hormuz, Ahmadinejad's tour of Latin America - which started Sunday in Venezuela and is set to end Thursday in Ecuador - is seen as an effort to side-step growing international tensions and find new markets as the European Union considers an outright embargo on Iranian oil.

The US could impose sanctions on foreign countries doing business with Iran's central bank, which would also seriously block the inflow of money for its major export, oil.

Over the course of his trip, Ahmadinejad has denied that Iran aims to make a nuclear bomb, a growing concern in the international community which has threatened ever stricter sanctions as Iran defies demands for transparency.

Iran's threat to block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for the sanctions is not the only issue contributing to tensions. On Monday, international nuclear regulators confirmed that Iran has begun enriching uranium at a second enrichment site in Fordo, near Qom. Uranium enrichment is essential to producing weapons-grade material.

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