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Chávez awaits Iran's Ahmadinejad after warm Brazil visit

The strong ties between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chávez are well known. But Brazil's support has set this regional tour apart.

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Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to supporters as he leaves the presidential palace in La Paz, Tuesday. Ahmadinejad is on a one-day visit to Bolivia.

Juan Karita/AP

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has moved on to Bolivia and later today heads to Venezuela, as part of his whirlwind trip to Latin America this week.

But as he moves into more familiar territory – the world has long become accustomed to his hearty hugs with Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez – he is buoyed by his first leg in Brazil, a visit that sets this regional tour apart from those of the past.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's welcome by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva helped him shore up badly needed support, amid disputed presidential elections at home and international attempts to isolate Iran over its nuclear program.

"We can predict the results of a trip to Venezuela or Bolivia. ... But given the importance of Brazil, there was more at stake," says Daniel Brumberg, acting director of the Muslim World Initiative at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, adding that Ahmadinejad has gained much more than his Latin American peers on his trip so far.

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