By Jerome Socolovsky, VOA, Washington
Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, left, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, second left, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stand during an honor guard presentation at Ortega's swearing-in ceremony in Managua, Nicaragua, January 10, 2012.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ended a tour of Latin America this week with little to show, but support for his resistance to Western efforts to end his country's nuclear program.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's last stop was Ecuador.
At a news conference with President Rafael Correa, the Iranian leader denied widespread international suspicions that his country is developing nuclear weapons.
"The nuclear question is a political excuse," said Ahmedinejad. "They all know that Iran is not trying to make an atomic bomb. Iran isn't so imprudent as they are to spend its money and not be able to use these bombs."
The visit comes after the Obama administration imposed tough new sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
In Caracas on Monday, President Hugo Chavez lashed out against the U.S. and other countries.
"They accuse Iran of developing nuclear energy for military and war, but have no proof," said Chavez.
On Tuesday, Ahmedinejad attended the inauguration of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. And on Thursday, he met Cuban leader Raul Castro and his brother Fidel.
Latin America expert Stephen Johnson says countries Ahmedinejad did not visit are taking heed of the nuclear question.
"This is something that's, I think, troubling to countries like Brazil and Argentina, and many other countries in Latin America, which happen to be signatories of the Treaty of Tlatelolco and are nuclear non-proliferation countries," said Johnson.
And while Ahmadinejad's government has signed trade and business agreements with the Iran-friendly bloc, many projects are plagued by delays and face criticism as being unnecessary.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) stands with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in Cuba, January 12, 2012.
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