With U.S. Attention Elsewhere, Iran Extends Latin American Influence

With U.S. Attention Elsewhere, Iran Extends Latin American Influence

LIMA, Peru -- Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim met last week with his Iranian counterpart in Tehran, where the two diplomats discussed expanding bilateral economic ties. Trade between Iran and Brazil quadrupled between 2002 and 2007, and if Iran gets its way, it will further increase as much as five-fold, from $2 billion to $10 billion annually.

The move reflects the fact that while Washington's attention has been focused in recent years on Iraq and the War on Terror, Iran's influence in Latin America has quietly but steadily grown. In addition to Brazil, Iran has signed dozens of economic agreements with Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

In Nicaragua, Iran and Venezuela have agreed to invest $350 million in building a deepwater seaport off the Caribbean coast, in addition to a cross-country system of pipelines, rails and highways.

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