Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has arrived in Venezuela at the start of a tour of Latin American countries.
The visit is being seen as a bid to rally support from the region’s leftist leaders as tough new Western sanctions aim to isolate the Islamic Republic.
Tensions between the US and Iran have intensified with Washington saying it will not tolerate Tehran’s threatened closure of the Hormuz straight in response to the sanctions. With the straight vital for oil shipping in the Gulf the US has warned it will unblock any blockade.
And in a move likely to antagonise Western powers further Iran has announced it is to start enriching uranium deep inside a mountain at the Fordow site.
The launching of uranium refinement work there will offer better protection against enemy attack.
The US and its allies say Iran is trying to build bombs, but Tehran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.