Iran's Rouhani heads for Venezuela, Cuba

AFP , Friday 16 Sep 2016

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani set off Friday for a tour of Venezuela and Cuba before heading to New York for next week's UN General Assembly, official media reported.

Rouhani will take part in a summit of Non-Aligned Movement countries and hold separate talks with Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro, the IRNA news agency said.

The 120-nation group was founded more than 50 years ago to represent countries resentful of being squeezed in the power-struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Rouhani's trip comes amid a global oil glut that has seen prices fall dramatically in recent years.

Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves and has been hit hard by the price slump.

Iran -- which has nearly doubled oil and gas exports in the past year -- has so far resisted pressure from fellow members of the OPEC oil cartel to back a production freeze.

Speaking to journalists before leaving Tehran, Rouhani described Cuba as a "friendly and revolutionary country" and said he would meet President Raul Castro, and his brother and revolutionary leader, Fidel.

"For us, peace and non-interference in domestic affairs of other countries, their national sovereignty, consultation and coordination on issues of the developing and entire world are important," Rouhani said.

World leaders will convene in New York starting Monday for the 71st UN General Assembly, with the global refugee crisis and the Syria war likely to top the agenda.

Iran is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and is currently engaged in a war of words with regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Iran and world powers signed a landmark deal last year to curb Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of punishing economic sanctions.

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