(Posted Dec. 29, 10:33 a.m.) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the first world leader to reserve a seat at Daniel Ortega’s Jan. 10 presidential inauguration, according Iran’s director of international relations.
In a hemispheric tour that U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is blasting as a “tour of tyrants,” Ahmadinejad will first visit Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez on Jan. 9, before traveling—perhaps accompanied by the Venezuelan president, health permitting—to Managua for Ortega’s inauguration ceremony.
Ahmadinejad’s tour of the Americas will also include stops in Cuba and Ecuador, according to wire services.
The Iranian leader’s visit to Nicaragua could further strain U.S.-Nicaraguan relations, following a call by House Republicans Dec. 15 for the State Department to investigate Iran’s growing influence and activity in the Western Hemisphere, including in Nicaragua.
Although Nicaragua’s relations with Iran have been mostly rhetorical to date, there is concern in Washington that those relations will deepen in the years to come.
“Iran has been actively working for years to expand its ties and influence in the Western Hemisphere, and it has found willing partners in the region’s anti-American despots,” Ros-Lehtinen said Wednesday. “Ahmadinejad’s upcoming ‘Tour of Tyrants’ trip illustrates his commitment to deepening those ties and expanding the Iranian threat closer to our shores.”
The congresswoman added, “As Iran looks for help from allies like Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, it is important that the U.S. impose the strongest possible sanctions against Iran and urge fellow democracies to impose their own sanctions and deny Iranian access to their financial institutions.”
Iran is one of four countries on U.S.’ list of state sponsors of terrorism.