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Chavez says Iran 'like home,' criticizes Obama's 'empire'


TEHRAN, April 2 (RIA Novosti) - While the U.S. president took the limelight in London in the buildup to the G20 summit, two of his country's most outspoken opponents - the presidents of Iran and Venezuela - met in Tehran for talks.

Hugo Chavez, after arriving on Wednesday in the Iranian capital on a two-day visit to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and top officials, told reporters: "Arriving in Tehran for us is like arriving at our own home."

When asked about recent signals from President Barack Obama that the U.S. is willing to improve ties with Iran, Chavez said it was too early for optimism.

"I don't have much hope, because there is an empire behind him. He's the president of an empire."

However, he said: "I think it's fair to give him some time," and that he hoped Obama would become the first leader of a "truly democratic" United States.

Chavez flew to Tehran from Qatar, where he attended a summit of Latin American and Arab countries.

Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reported that Chavez had met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur, and invited him to visit Caracas.

However, Chavez has yet to comment on the international media storm created on Wednesday by a blog post from Venezuela's Dayana Mendoza, the reigning Miss Universe.

In her post on the pageant's website, Mendoza recounted in glowing terms her recent trip to the notorious U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, which her president considers to be an illegal entity that must be returned to Cuba.

Mendoza described how she "visited the Detainees camps" and "saw the jails, where they shower, how the recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books. It was very interesting." She goes on to say her tour was "a loooot of fun!" and that "I didn't want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful."

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