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Ahmadinejad arrives in Venezuela

ROUGH CUT. (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Story: Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Venezuela at the start of a tour to shore up support from the region's leftist leaders, as tough new Western sanctions aim to isolate the Islamic republic and target its vital oil exports. Ahmadinejad was met at Venezuela's Maiquetia International Airport by an honor guard, a red carpet, and a reception committee of about 100 people led by Vice-President Elias Jaua. Obama signed measures into law on New Year's Eve that will make it harder for most countries to buy Iranian oil. The European Union is also expected to announce some type of ban on Iranian oil by the end of this month, and Washington has said that Ahmadinejad's planned tour of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador showed Iran was "desperate" for friends. The sanctions are aimed at forcing Iran to halt its nuclear work, which the United States and its allies say is aimed at producing bombs. Iran says it is for power generation. It remains to be seen how far Chavez would go in backing Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important oil shipping lane, or how much he could undermine the sanctions by providing fuel or cash to Tehran. In the past, Chavez has threatened to stop oil exports to the United States but has never followed through. Other regional leaders due to receive Ahmadinejad, like Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, have a similar ideological stance to Chavez, but fewer resources.

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