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Chavez says Iran helping Venezuela find uranium

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez speaks to journalists at the ALBA summit in Cochabamba, October 17, 2009. REUTERS/David Mercado

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday Iran is helping his country explore for uranium, but stressed his government would only use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Venezuela says it is working with Russia to develop nuclear energy for peaceful uses, and the country’s mining minister said last month Iranian officials were helping to look for uranium, with preliminary tests indicating big deposits.

“We’re working with several countries, with Iran, with Russia. We’re responsible for what we’re doing, we’re in control,” Chavez told reporters in the central Bolivian region of Cochabamba during a gathering of leftist Latin American presidents.

U.S. President Barack Obama and other western leaders have accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Chavez said Venezuela would only use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, adding that neither Venezuela nor Iran was planning to build a nuclear bomb.

“What we propose is for nuclear bombs to be eliminated. Venezuela will never build a nuclear bomb,” he said.

Chavez, a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy, has forged close ties with Iran and Russia in recent years.

Reporting by Teresa Cespedes and Diego Ore; writing by Eduardo Garcia; editing by Todd Eastham