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Iran leader defends nuclear program on Latin America trip via The Mainichi Daily News

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended his country’s nuclear program as he began a four-nation tour of Latin America, joining his ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in accusing the U.S. and its allies of using the dispute to unjustly threaten Iran.

Both leaders dismissed U.S. concerns about Iran’s intentions in the Middle East and its growing diplomatic ties with Chavez and his allies in Latin America.

“They accuse us of being warmongers,” Chavez said. “They’re the threat.”

Iran finds itself under increasing pressure in the standoff over its nuclear program, and in response to the latest U.S. sanctions has threatened to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, an important transit route for oil tanker shipments.

The U.N. nuclear agency on Monday confirmed that Iran has begun enriching uranium at an underground bunker to a level that can be upgraded more quickly for use in a nuclear weapon than the nation’s main enriched stockpile. That development has increased fears among U.S. and European officials about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

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