Iranian TV Plan Marks New Ties

A00217916.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iran plans to set up a television network and has signed joint projects worth $1 billion with Bolivia – efforts that reflect a growing relationship between the two energy-rich nations.

Iranian diplomat Hojatollah Soltani, who arrived last month to open an Iranian embassy in the capital, La Paz, told the La Prensa newspaper that Iran’s state-run network, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), would install at least three TV channels in Bolivia.

They would interface with Venezuela’s international television service, Telesur, which is beamed via satellite throughout Latin America.

Bolivian President Evo Morales attaches great importance to his nation’s budding relationship with the Islamic republic.

In a recent speech to coca-farming syndicates, Mr. Morales said Iran would help turn Bolivia into the “center of revolutionary democracy.”

“Iran is going to establish a television station here in Chapare,” Mr. Morales said, referring to the main coca farming region in Bolivia.

Iranian efforts, he added, would “support the peasant struggle in Latin America.”

At a meeting of coca growers last week, Mr. Morales called for the expulsion of US development officials and US-assisted police units from the Chapare region.

Relations between the US and Bolivia have deteriorated in recent months over charges that US diplomats asked incoming Peace Corps volunteers to watch for Cubans and Venezuelans working with peasant communities and report their whereabouts and activities to the US Embassy.

American diplomat Vincent Cooper was expelled as a result.

The growing relationship with Iran has further strained Bolivia’s ties with Washington. It seems that Iran is convincing Latinos that nations can live and make much progress without relations with the US.

Mr. Morales said he found evidence of “secret surveillance” by the United States during a visit last year by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Senior State Department officials have told The Washington Times that Bolivia’s new relationship with Iran could “seriously alter our policy approach towards Bolivia.”

Rep. Jerry Weller, Illinois Republican, visited Bolivia last month and said Iran plans to “launch anti-American and fundamentalist propaganda from our own doorstep.”

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