LA PAZ, Sep 24 (Reuters) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is set to visit Bolivia on Thursday to tighten diplomatic ties and sign energy and industrial aid agreements, Bolivia's government spokesman said.
Ahmadinejad was in New York today for the UN General Assembly meeting and plans to visit Venezuela on Wednesday.
Iran, deeply at odds with the West over its nuclear program, has gained influence in Latin America as anti-US sentiment has risen among leftist leaders such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales.
Bolivia said the Iranian leader's visit did not imply that La Paz supported an Iranian arms buildup that has been strongly criticised by the United States and other countries.
''We're talking about advances in technology and etrochemistry,'' government spokesman Alex Contreras told official news agency ABI. ''We will not support war-mongering and weapons buildup policies.'' Bolivian Government Minister Juan Ramon Quintana said in Washington that Bolivia was also looking at possible Iranian investment in its mining sector.
REUTERS GT RK2315