Hugo Chavez Receives Iran's Highest Honor

The Associated Press
Sunday, July 30, 2006; 11:55 PM

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran awarded Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez its highest state medal on Sunday for supporting Tehran in its nuclear standoff with the international community, while Chavez urged the world to rise up and defeat the U.S., state-run media in both countries reported.

The leftist Venezuelan leader also condemned Israel for what he called the "terrorism" and "madness" of its attacks in Lebanon, Venezuelan state television reported.

"Let's save the human race, let's finish off the U.S. empire," Chavez said. "This (task) must be assumed with strength by the majority of the peoples of the world."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented Chavez with the Islamic Republic Medal in a ceremony at Tehran University. The award was to show Iran's gratitude for his "support for Iran's stance on the international scene, especially its opposition to a resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency," Iranian state-run television said.

"He is the one who has resisted imperialism for years and has defended the interests of his and other Latin American countries," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

In February, Venezuela opposed an IAEA decision to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council over its disputed nuclear program.

A draft proposal Friday by permanent members of the U.N. Security Council gives Iran until the end of August to suspend uranium enrichment or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

The U.S. accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains its program is purely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.

© 2006 The Associated Press