Iran and Venezuela Working to Strengthen Military Ties

Venezuela also established formal ties with the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Israel's Gaza op.

Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammed Najjar met with Venezuelan Vice President Ramon Carrizalez, who is also acting defense minister, in an effort to strengthen military ties between the two countries, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday.

Najjar was quoted as saying defense ties are being developed as part of a long-term plan and that "cooperation with Venezuela has experienced a leap that we're seeking to accelerate in this visit."

IRNA said Najjar arrived Monday leading an Iranian delegation for three-day visit. Venezuela President Hugo Chavez's government did not immediately comment on the talks.

Venezuela on Monday established formal ties with Palestinian officials who opened a diplomatic mission in the South American country.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki thanked President Hugo Chavez's government for its support during the recent Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip, which prompted the Venezuelan leader to break off relations with Israel.

Venezuelan-Palestinian relations have warmed as tensions have grown between Chavez's government and Israel.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said the Palestinian cause is "like our own," while al-Malki praised Chavez as "the most popular leader in the Arab world," in part for his staunch support of Palestinians.

Venezuela expelled Israeli diplomats in January to protest the Gaza offensive, and Israel later responded by kicking out Venezuelan envoys. Chavez has labeled Israeli leaders "genocidal."