Iran should not be referred to the U.N. Security Council, Venezuela says

Iran should not be referred to the U.N. Security Council for pursuing a nuclear energy program, a top government Venezuelan official reponsible for oversees economic and political affairs said Friday.

Gustavo Marquez, the Commerce and Foreign Integration Minister, said the International Atomic Energy Agency, which may report Iran to the council, has no proof Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

In a letter sent to the IAEA's board of governors, Marquez said Iran's nuclear program must be evaluated "from a balanced perspective, starting from an assessment that applies equally to all member countries."

Marquez, a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, told the state-run Bolivarian News Agency that countries with nuclear energy programs were unfairly keeping others from developing similar initiatives.

Under Chavez, Venezuela has forged strong ties with Iran, including cooperation agreements in oil exploration and joint-venture tractor production plants. The European Union submitted a motion on Friday that sets Iran up for referral to the council, and pushed for a decision Saturday when the IAEA board reconvenes.

Marquez said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had shown his country had no secret intentions by inviting cooperation on its program with other nations. At the U.N. General Assembly last Saturday, Ahmadinejad offered foreign countries and companies a role in his nation's uranium enrichment program, AP reports.

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