Iran and Venezuela break ground on joint petrochemical complex south of Tehran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez broke ground Monday on a joint petrochemical complex south of Tehran, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The complex, located in Assaluyeh, some 1,300 kilometers (808 miles) south of Tehran, will produce more than 1.6 million tons of methanol when finished, according to IRNA.

"The nations of Iran and Venezuela develop their countries and try to form a new world for themselves and other free nations," the agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during the ceremony.

Chavez followed by saying, "We want to unite and create a multi-polar world."

Ownership in the complex is almost evenly divided, with 51 percent to Iran and 49 percent to Venezuela. The countries will begin construction on a second complex in Venezuela soon, at a total combined cost of US$1.4 billion (EUR 1 billion).

Earlier Monday, the two presidents inaugurated a wholly-owned Iranian petrochemical complex in the same area, with a production capability of more than 4.5 million tons of petrochemical products, IRNA reported.

The two countries have said their petrochemical partnership will help Iran access markets in Latin America and Venezuela those in India.

Ties between Iran and Venezuela have been growing stronger, with both leaders strongly condemning U.S. policies. Chavez has defended Iran's disputed nuclear program, dismissing Washington's concerns that Tehran is secretly trying to develop atomic weapons.

Later Monday, during a press conference broadcast on Iranian state television, Chavez held Ahmadinejad's hand and said, "Washington will get angry when it sees we are hand in hand."

On Sunday, Iran said it plans to join a Latin American initiative designed to counter U.S.-led efforts for free trade in the region.

Chavez arrived in Iran on Saturday for a two-day visit, as part of a three-nation tour after stops in Russia and Belarus. His visit is the third to Iran in the past two years and the sixth since he came to power.

During Chavez's current visit, the two countries signed some 20 economic and trade agreements, including ones for the construction of a housing project and artisan school in Venezuela.

Since 2001, the two countries have signed more than 181 trade agreements, worth more than US$20 billion (EUR 15 billion) in potential investment, IRNA reported.

Iran has partnered with Venezuela on several industrial projects in the South American nation, including the production of cars, tractors and plastic goods.