Ecuador President Rafael Correa confirmed that he will make an official visit to Iran this week, to strengthen ties between the two oil-producing nations and to bolster bilateral trade and cooperation, dpa reported.
Correa vowed to work for "the maximum benefit of our people, and what is signed will be fulfilled," noting that he will lead a group of local businessman seeking opportunities in the Iranian market.
Correa, a left-leaning economist, began opening new ties with Iran after taking office in January 2007, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad extended an invitation, with the establishment of commercial offices in Tehran and Quito.
Relations deepened when Ecuador supported Iran's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, at the expense of Quito's traditional ally Japan.
The Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry defended the diplomatic initiatives by saying the government was exercising its sovereignty in establishing relations that best serve the country's interests.
Correa, a friend of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is a critic of Washington-led neoliberal trade policies and conditions forced on developing nations in exchange for financial aid.
Correa has also threatened to default on Ecuador's foreign debt, calling the country's obligations with International Monetary Fund "illegal." Last week, he sought support from South Americans allies in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of our America - a Chavez initiative to combat the influence of US-led institutions in the continent.