Ahmadinejad meets with the Castros, travels to Ecuador
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Cuban President Raul Castro and with his brother, historic Cuban leader Fidel, before heading off to Ecuador on Thursday for the last leg of his five-day Latin American tour, dpa reported.
Ahmadinejad said he had met with Fidel Castro for around two hours Wednesday, of whom he said he follows global affairs "in detail."
Late Wednesday, Ahmadinejad also discussed "regional, bilateral and international" affairs with Raul Castro, along with plans to boost trade and investment between Cuba and Iran.
Ahmadinejad stressed that the two countries have "similar, very close" interpretations and positions regarding international matters, including the situation in the Middle East.
Raul Castro went to Havana airport to see off his guest as he left for Ecuador. He joked about the meeting between his brother and Ahmadinejad.
"I asked (Ahmadinejad) last night who talked more, and he said Fidel did," he said. "It's a sign that he is well."
Fidel Castro, 85, stepped down from power in Cuba for health reasons in 2006.
While in Cuba, Ahmadinejad also lectured at the University of Havana.
Ahmadinejad's Latin American tour started Sunday in Venezuela and took him to Nicaragua on Tuesday and Cuba on Wednesday.
At a time of tension in the oil-transport corridor of the Strait of Hormuz, the trip is seen as an Iranian effort to side-step growing international tensions and find new markets as the European Union considers an outright embargo on Iranian oil.
The United States could impose sanctions on foreign countries doing business with Iran's central bank, which would also seriously block the inflow of money for its major export, oil.
Over the course of his trip, Ahmadinejad has denied that Iran aims to make a nuclear bomb, a growing concern in the international community, which has threatened ever stricter sanctions as Iran continues to defy calls for greater transparency.
Iran's threat to block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for the sanctions is not the only issue contributing to tensions. On Monday, international nuclear regulators confirmed that Iran has begun enriching uranium at a second enrichment site in Fordo, near Qom.
Uranium enrichment is essential to producing weapons-grade material.