Ahmadinejad: Why does U.S. punish Iranians, Cubans?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is welcomed by Cuban Vice-President Esteban Lazo on his arrival to Havana, on January 11, 2012.

Story highlights

  • "Capitalist system might do damage, sabotage," Ahmadinejad says
  • Ahmadinejad previously visited Venezuela and Nicaragua
  • The tour is part of an effort to strengthen diplomatic and economic ties in the region
  • Ahmadinejad's last stop will be in Ecuador

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Cuba Wednesday and called on developing countries to unite against "imperialism and capitalism."

"Why are the Iranian, Cuban and Latin American people punished by the United States?" he asked the audience attending his speech at the University of Havana. "Have we attacked them in some way? Have we asked for more than we are owed? Never, not once. We have only ever wanted justice."

Ahmadinejad did not directly mention a bomb attack that left an Iranian nuclear scientist dead in Tehran Wednesday.

But, he said, "The capitalist system might do damage, sabotage."

Facing increasing sanctions over Iran's alleged development of nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad is calling on friendly heads of state this week in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.

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He was expected to meet with high-ranking government officials on the island, including President Raul Castro.

By Wednesday evening, the Cuban government had not made any announcement about whether Ahmadinejad had met with former President Fidel Castro.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, a Cuban-American who has called for tougher sanctions against the island nation's government, called Ahmadinejad's itinerary a "tour of tyrants."

"Rallying dictators against the United States is the central agenda item of Ahmadinejad's trip to the region," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. Cuba has been under U.S. economic sanctions for 50 years.

Cuba officially recognized Iran shortly after the 1979 Iranian revolution. Then-Cuban President Fidel Castro visited Iran in 2001.

Cuba also aspires to become a large oil producer and is working with a Spanish company to develop between 5 million and 20 billion barrels of oil in the straits of Florida.

Thursday, Ahmadinejad was scheduled to leave Cuba for Ecuador, the final stop on his trip.

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