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Bolivia's Morales, Iran's Ahmadinejad Embrace

September 2, 2008 |  4:50 pm

Yes, that was Bolivian President Evo Morales greeting his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in Tehran. Morales is seeking investment during a two-day trip to the Islamic Republic. Ahmadinejad visited Bolivia last year, pledging a $1-billion aid package.

The Iranian president praised "the resistance of the  Bolivian people'' against the United States, wire services reported. Morales hailed Iran's "anti-imperialist'' stance.Ap_version_together

Tehran has reached out to leftist governments in Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua in a jab at archenemy Washington in its own backyard. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez jump-started the new alliance, which is worrying the Bush administration.

Back in Morales' divided homeland, Bolivia's national electoral court suspended the president's planned  Dec. 7 referendum on a new constitution. Critics call the vote an illegal ploy to consolidate Morales' power. La Razon reports that pro-Morales forces still vowed to stage the December vote, which would be the fourth national election in two years.

Meantime, La Razon reports that Venezuela plans to provide Bolivia with a presidential helicopter to replace the Super Puma that crashed July 20, killing 4 Venezuelan crew members and 1 Bolivian. Morales was not on board at the time, but the crash occurred a few hours after the president had been ferried on the very same helicopter. Afterward, Morales questioned whether sabotage may have been involved. But Bolivian authorities on Tuesday blamed "operational faults'' and bad weather for the fatal crash.

-- Patrick J. McDonnell in Buenos Aires.

Photo: Iran's Ahmadinejad (right) shakes hands with Bolivia's Morales in Tehran on Monday. (AP/ISNA/Amir Khulusi.)

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