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US foes unite: Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega cozies up to Iran's Ahmadinejad

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran will be the guest of honor at the inauguration of Nicaragua's newly-reelected president, Daniel Ortega.

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Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, right, applauds next to his wife Rosario Murillo during the summit by Central American governments, called the Consultative Group Meeting for the Reconstruction of Central America, in San Salvador, El Salvador, Dec. 16, 2011.

Luis Romero/AP

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Nicaragua's president and longtime US foe Daniel Ortega is stirring old tensions with Washington by inviting a special guest of honor to his inauguration Tuesday: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the 1980s, the US backed the Contra rebels to fight Mr. Ortega's communist Sandinista government – a dark chapter in both countries' history that closed when Ortega was swept from office in democratic elections in 1990.

Since Ortega's return to power by ballot box in 2007, Washington's response has been limited. The US has criticized his antidemocratic power-grab and cut $64 million in Millennium Challenge development aid, but generally tried to work with the Ortega administration while turning a deaf ear to the Sandistas' "Anti-yanqui" diatribes.

Now several Republican congressmen now want to use the Iran issue to turn up the heat on Ortega and reclassify him from State Department bugbear to national security threat – a dubious distinction the Sandinista government hasn’t had since the 1980s.

“This trip by Ahmadinejad to Nicaragua reaffirms why the Obama administration’s lack of action regarding the undemocratic and fraudulent measures taken by the Ortega regime in the last election in Nicaragua are not only misguided, but could pose a threat to our national security as a State Sponsor of Terrorism is given a warm welcome in our backyard,” Florida Congressman David Rivera (R), of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Monitor.

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