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Chavez To Back Iran If U.S. Invades

Venezuela's president pledged Thursday his country would support Iran if it was invaded as a result of its nuclear standoff with the United Nations Security Council.

The U.N. has demanded Iran suspend uranium enrichment amid concerns by some nations that it could be used for nuclear weapons. Iran insists the enrichment is aimed solely at producing electricity.

"Iran is under threat; there are plans to invade Iran, hopefully it won't happen, but we are with you," Hugo Chavez told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a meeting of the Group of 15 developing nations on the sidelines of a Nonaligned Movement summit in Cuba.

Chavez said Venezuela stands with Iran in this time of crisis, just as it stood by Cuba, where Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother Raul while recovering from intestinal surgery. If they don't defend each other, no one else will, Chavez said.

"Under any scenario, we are with you just like we are with Cuba," Chavez said. "If the United States invades Cuba, blood will run... We will not have our arms crossed while bombs are falling in Havana or they carry Raul off in a plane."

Ahmadinejad gave a relatively mild speech, urging his fellow leaders to work together to help the G-15 nations achieve their full potential. Then Chavez took over, saying he didn't want to leave Havana without a statement reflecting resounding support for the Iranian, Cuban and Palestinian people.

It was not clear what Chavez could actually do to help Iran. He has vowed in the past to cut off Venezuelan supplies of oil to the U.S. in case of an invasion of Cuba.

The meeting was a milestone for Cuba — the first time Raul Castro represented his nation at an international summit as acting president. But Chavez stole the show — saying Fidel Castro had given him permission to speak longer because Raul wouldn't talk much. Raul Castro seemed to take the jab in good spirits, giving Chavez a bear hug after the meeting.

After visiting Fidel Castro on Thursday, Chavez said he was walking and singing and was "almost well enough to play baseball."

Trading the green fatigues usually wears as Cuba's defense minister for a dark suit, Raul Castro briefly praised Iran and other developing nations for trying to create "a better, more just world."

Nuclear proliferation and Middle East violence were the hot topics as scores of leaders began showing up in Havana for the Nonaligned Movement summit, which now includes two-thirds of the world's countries.

Some diplomats said the developing world must unite to demand the creation of a Palestinian state. Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said the movement would consider a resolution to "condemn Israel for the hideous war waged against Lebanon."

Others said containing nuclear weapons was the key issue.

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