Iran's influence in Latin
America worries U.S.
WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - Iran
is making allies in Latin America to counter Washington's traditional influence
in the region and could use them to threaten U.S. security, a top U.S. diplomat
"We are worried that in
the event of a conflict with Iran,
that it would attempt to use its presence in the region to conduct such
activities against us," Thomas Shannon, the U.S.
assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere,
Left-wing governments in Venezuela, Cuba,
Nicaragua and Bolivia have all become allies of Iran in recent years, and other countries in Latin America have diplomatic ties with the Islamic
Shannon said Iran wants to ease its international isolation
by showing it is able to win friends in Latin America, which has been
historically in the United
States' "sphere of influence".
Washington accuses Iran of supporting terrorist groups and secretly
trying to produce nuclear bombs, and is concerned by its courting of allies in Latin America.
Shannon urged the region's
governments to respect U.N.-backed sanctions against Iran
over its nuclear program and recalled accusations that Iran was involved in attacks on the Israeli
embassy and a Jewish community center in Argentina's
capital Buenos Aires
during the 1990s.
"We urge our friends
and partners in the region to be vigilant," he said, adding that those
attacks show Iran is able
"to conduct terrorist operations within the Americas".
Iran has denied any involvement
in the Buenos Aires
attacks, which killed well over 100 people. (Reporting by Adriana Garcia,
Editing by Sue Pleming and Kieran Murray)