Photo: Ahmedinejad in Latin America
Daniel Ortega began his second consecutive five-year term as president of Nicaragua with a speech substantially devoted to defending the Iranian nuclear program.
The current campaign of sanctions and pressure on Tehran threatens global peace, Ortega said Tuesday night from a dais occupied by seven heads of state and government, including Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and by Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe.
He spoke of a “a true conspiracy” against Iran, “that in the final account goes against the whole region, against the peace of the world.”
Ahmadinejad arrived in Managua from Venezuela, the first stop on a Latin American tour that comes as Washington and its allies have intensified pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
The United States and Israel say they believe the program has a military component aimed at developing nuclear weapons, while Iran says it is interested only in energy and producing isotopes for medical use.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have found no evidence of diversion of nuclear materials in Iran.
“We remember what happened in Iraq,” Ortega said. “They (U.S. officials) swore that President Saddam Hussein, may he rest in peace, had atomic weapons. They swore it and assured us of it and, from there, launched an invasion.”
Speaking for more than an hour, Ortega took time to hail Chavez, his closest ally, for the Venezuelan leader’s recent battle with cancer.
He also thanked Crown Prince Felipe for Spain’s enduring solidarity with Nicaragua.
“Spain has maintained at every moment ... independently of who governs in Nicaragua and who governs in Spain ... unconditional cooperation,” Ortega said, after acknowledging Spaniards’ current economic hardships.
The 66-year-old Ortega, who ruled Nicaragua from 1979-1990 as leader of the Sandinista movement that overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza, returned to the presidency in 2006 and won another term last November in elections that also gave his party control of Congress.
Nicaragua’s opposition denounced the electoral process as fraudulent and boycotted the inauguration.
Independent pre-election polls forecast a decisive win for Ortega.