Iran's national airline will begin direct flights to Venezuela next month in another sign of the two nations' increasingly close ties.
Iran Air will operate a weekly, commercial flight linking Tehran and Caracas in March, the Venezuelan government said in a statement Friday. Flights leaving Tehran will stop in Syria's capital of Damascus on their way to Caracas, it said. Iran Air opened a new office at the headquarters of Venezuela's state airline Conviasa in Caracas on Friday, and Conviasa will soon open a commercial office in Iran, the statement said. Iranian Ambassador Abdullah Zifan was quoted as saying that the flight will help strengthen ties between Latin America and the Middle East by facilitating travel and will benefit the many families dispersed across the two regions. Zifan added that President Hugo Chavez "is much loved in our country and our people want to come here to get to know this land." Relations between the two countries have tightened under Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who are united in their antagonism to the U.S. government. Venezuela and Iran plan to jointly produce everything from bricks to bicycles and are also cooperating in the development of Venezuela's oil fields. Last month, the oil-rich nations announced a joint $2 billion fund to finance investments in Venezuela and Iran, as well as projects in other countries seeking to help thwart U.S. domination. The two leaders have spoken of investing in infrastructure, social and energy projects, but have not offered specifics. (AP)