BEIJING, Jan. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has arrived in Ecuador, the last stop of his four-nation Latin American tour aimed at shoring up support. His tour comes as the European Union plans to follow the US in imposing sanctions against Iran, including an oil embargo.
A warm welcome from President Ahmadinejad’s Ecuador ally, Rafael Correa - Greeted by excited crowds and an honor guard at the airport, Ahmadinejad began his Ecuador visit on Thursday.
Later the two leaders waved to crowds from the balcony of Correa’s official residence. This follows Ahmadinejad’s visit to Cuba, where the Iranian president met with former leader Fidel Castro and his brother, President Raul Castro.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, "We’ve maintained good relations with Commander Fidel Castro. We talked about a lot of issues. It made me very happy to see Fidel safe and sane, and we saw that he follows regional, global and international issues closely and passionately."
Ecuador is the last stop on Ahmadinejad’s Latin American trip, which already took him to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. The four countries remain critical of US actions on Iran, and have endorsed Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy.
Iran’s efforts to promote friendship with its Latin American allies come shortly after Washington imposed tougher sanctions on it over its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad’s tour is also seen as an effort to find new markets for Iranian oil, as the EU considers an outright oil embargo. The EU is also planning new sanctions on Iran’s financial sector.
In retaliation for the sanctions, Iran has threatened to block the oil-transport corridor of the Hormuz Strait.
Adding to the tension, the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed that Iran has reached 20 percent uranium enrichment - the level needed for producing weapons-grade materials.
Iran insists its program is for energy and other peaceful purposes. But the US and its allies accuse it of wanting to create nuclear weapons.