PressTV: The United States has expressed concerns over the increasing relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Latin American countries.
General Douglas Fraser, the head of the US Southern Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that Iran has expanded its ties in Latin America beyond its close relationship with Venezuela, AFP reported.
Fraser said that Iran has nearly doubled the number of embassies and cultural centers in the region, adding that the number of Iran’s embassies has gone up from six in 2005 to ten in 2010, and that it is also building cultural centers in 17 countries.
He further pointed out that Iran hosted heads of states of three countries, namely Bolivia, Guyana and Venezuela, in the last year.
“My concern, as I look at it, is the fact that there are flights between Iran and Venezuela on a weekly basis, and visas are not required for entrance into Venezuela or Bolivia or Nicaragua,” said the official.
Last month, Washington warned Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez against ‘violating’ sanctions on Iran; however, US officials noted that there was no evidence Venezuela had violated the sanctions.
Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Paraguayan counterpart Fernando Lugo Mendez discussed ways to expand relations between Tehran and Asuncion, and called for more cooperation between the two states.
President Ahmadinejad has expanded Iran’s cooperation with many Latin American countries since his assumption of office in 2005.
The promotion of all-out cooperation with Latin American countries is now among the top priorities of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy.
According to statistics released by the International Monetary Fund, Iran’s trade with Latin America has witnessed a considerable rise since 2008.
Brazil is Iran’s leading trade partner on the continent, followed by Argentina. Peru is also a major importer of Iranian products to the region, and the Islamic Republic’s trade with Ecuador has soared. Tehran’s trade with Venezuela is also on the rise.
Iran has made significant gains in trade with other partners in the region, including Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.