Ahmadinejad, Lukashenko head for Chavez’s funeral
Minsk, March 8 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko are travelling to Caracas to attend the funeral of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, state television reported.
President Lukashenko decided to personally pay tribute to his late Venezuelan ally, “taking into consideration the especially friendly character and strategic level of the Belarusian-Venezuelan relations”, the president’s spokesman said.
“Hugo Chavez had no closer and friendlier relations with any other heads of foreign states than that which he had with the Belarusian president,” he said.
Lukashenko, once labelled Europe’s last dictator by the US, ordered three days of mourning for the late Venezuelan leader, describing him as a “close and reliable friend” and “brother”.
Ahmadinejad, who also referred to Chavez as a “brother”, also took off for Caracas to attend the funeral of his closest ally in Latin America.
Since taking office in 2005, Ahmadinejad has visited Venezuela six times.
The Iranian leader called Chavez “a dear friend of Iran” and “symbol of all the brave fighters and revolutionaries of Latin America”.
Russia is sending Igor Sechin, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative and former deputy prime minister, to Chavez’s funeral.
Sechin, president of the Rosneft oil company and chairman of the board at the Rosneftegaz company, has been closely involved in Russian-Venezuelan relations.
Russian senate speaker Valentina Matviyenko, who topped a list of the 100 most influential women in Russia recently, also said she will travel to Venezuela to attend the ceremony.
Chavez, 58, who had ruled the country for 14 years, died after battling cancer for two years.