Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has rejected media claims about the presence of an Iranian expert at the site of North Korea’s recent nuclear test. “The source of the report is not valid,” Mehmanparast said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. On February 12, North Korea announced that it had successfully carried out its third underground nuclear test, which involved a “miniaturized” device. Following the announcement, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV news channel reportedly claimed that an Iranian expert had been present at the site of nuclear test. Commenting on a report about possible proposals by the P5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States plus Germany) in the upcoming talks in Kazakhstan, Mehmanparast said statements by Western media cannot be taken into consideration as long as they have not been directly presented by the group. On February 15, Reuters reported that the P5+1 are set to offer easing of Iran’s sanctions barring trade in gold and other precious metals in Kazakhstan talks and in return ask Iran to shut down its Fordo nuclear facility. On Monday, Mehmanparast denounced the offer, saying the group wants to overlook the rights of a nation through giving the green light for the trade in gold to go on. Iran-Venezuela ties no threat to others Mehmanparast also said Tehran-Caracas relations pose no threat to the interests of other countries. “The Islamic Republic’s relations with other countries, including countries in Latin America, are not to the detriment of any other countries.” On Sunday, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird expressed his country’s concern over the growing relations between Iran and Venezuela, saying he would raise the issue with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during his visit to Caracas next week.
The great potentials and wide scale cooperation between Iran and Latin American countries can benefit both nations as well as other countries in the region, Mehmanparast noted.“This cooperation poses no threat to a third country’s interests,” he said. Iran and Venezuela have continued to expand their trade ties despite sanctions imposed on the two countries. More than 100 bilateral agreements have been signed between the two countries over the past decade, while last year Iranian firms signed a USD2.5-billion contract to build 17,000 houses for underprivileged people in Venezuela. The Islamic Republic has been seeking to expand relations with Latin American countries over the past years, describing the endeavor as one of its major foreign policy strategies. Iran’s growing popularity in Latin America has raised major concerns in the US, which regards the region as its strategic backyard and traditional sphere of influence. The US alleges that Iran is using its close economic ties with Venezuela to establish a military presence in Latin America. In December 2012, US president Barack Obama enacted a law “aimed at countering Tehran's alleged influence in Latin America.” Strategically dubbed as ‘Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012’, the act calls for the State Department to develop a plan within 180 days to "address Iran's growing hostile presence and activity" in Latin America. MYA/YH/MA