Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stopped in Bolivia Tuesday en route to the Rio+20 summit in Brazil, to court support from another Latin American nation which has tense ties with the United States.
Ahmadinejad had a warm welcome at the airport high in the Andes from his Bolivian counterpart President Evo Morales. Then they headed to the Palacio Quemado presidential palace to hold meetings on cooperation deals.
Bilateral cooperation investment in recent years has topped one billion dollars with projects in farming, mining, oil and gas, and health care.
Iran also is considering mining lithium at Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni, the world's biggest deposit of the mineral used in laptop and electric car batteries.
Three indigenous people's groups close to the government, Morales is Bolivia's first democratically elected indigenous president, issued a statement of support for Ahmadinejad and his solidarity with Bolivia.
Iran has courted warm ties with Latin leftists who are critical of the US role in international relations. Topping the list is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as well as Morales and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
The long age of colonial exploitation is the result of the attitude and actions of greedy governments and states that want to stop others from developing, and from exercising freedom, Ahmadinejad said in a speech alongside Morales.
“We are two sovereign and independent countries with very old civilizations. Today we've decided to stand on our own feet. Today we've decided to provide our people with freedom, justice, and rights. We want to reach heights of development and build our countries with our own natural and human resources,” he added.
The visit came as Iran and world powers failed to narrow differences over the Iran's nuclear program after talks in Moscow held amid threats of a crippling oil embargo or even military action against Tehran.
The high-level environmental meeting entitled the Rio+20 Summit, also known as the Earth Summit, which is formally called the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, will be held from June 20 to 22 at the Riocentro Convention Centre in Rio de Janeiro.
After the summit, Ahmadinejad will then travel to Venezuela on the last leg of his South American tour to meet Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Vice President for Executive Affairs Hamid Baqaei, and Vice President for International Affairs Ali Sa'eedlou are accompanying President Ahmadinejad on the trip.
Chavez has made nine trips to Tehran over the past 13 years while Morales has visited Tehran twice, once in 2008 and again in 2010.
Ahmadinejad last visited Latin America in January and made stops in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Cuba.