Iran, Nicaragua leaders tour slums, share goals

By Anahi Rama
Sunday, January 14, 2007; 8:11 PM

MANAGUA (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a U.S. foe, toured shantytowns with Nicaragua's leftist President Daniel Ortega on Sunday and said the two countries share common interests and enemies.

On his second trip to Latin America in four months, Ahmadinejad called Ortega, a former Cold War opponent of Washington and part of a growing wave of leftist presidents in the region, a symbol of justice in Nicaragua.

"We have to give each other a hand," Ahmadinejad told reporters. "We have common interests, common enemies and common goals."

While distrusted by Washington, oil-exporting Iran's Ahmadinejad is welcomed in many Latin American countries where leftist leaders are trying to reduce U.S. influence.

Ahmadinejad, an ex-soldier, and Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla, both came to power on populist platforms.

Ortega drove Ahmadinejad on a tour of Managua's poorest slums, past houses made of plastic sheets and Sandinista supporters waving banners and holding up photographs of the Iranian leader.

Ortega, a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, began his term last week after winning November's election on promises to fight hunger and corruption.

Ahmadinejad is also close to Chavez, a fierce critic of President Bush, and visited him on Saturday before going to Nicaragua later in the evening.

Ahmadinejad took a swipe at Washington after U.S. forces detained five Iranians in Iraq last week, accusing them of links to a group that provides weapons to Iraqi insurgents.

"The United States should look for the root of its problem somewhere else," he told a small group of journalists. "This will not resolve their problems."


Ortega and Ahmadinejad signed agreements to help build affordable housing, dams and other projects in Nicaragua, the Western Hemisphere's second-poorest country after Haiti.

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