Chavez and Assad to Strengthen 'Caracas-Damascus Axis'

A bilateral, $11million industry and trade fund was among the agreements signed between the two leaders in Venezuela.


Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is decorated by Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at Miraflores Pa

Venezuela and Syria want to strengthen their partnership, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said late Saturday after a four-hour meeting with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Asaad.

"We must make progress with the Caracas-Damascus axis," said Chavez. "This axis is highly strategic."

Assad was on a first visit to Venezuela. Chavez paid visits to Syria in 2006 and 2009.

Numerous agreements were signed during the meeting, which took place in the presidential palace of Miraflores in Caracas.

A bilateral, $11million industry and trade fund was among the agreements. Syria and Venezuela are each to contribute half, and the money is to be used to finance joint projects.

An oil refinery in Syria was also to be built with a 4.7-billion- dollar investment.

Both Chavez and al-Assad defended Iran's right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

"We believe that all countries have this right," said Assad. "It's part of our basic principles that all states have the same rights."

Assad is to fly on to Cuba, Brazil and Argentina.