US Defence Secretary accuses Iran of meddling in Latin America

Robert Gates Washington - US Defence Secretary Robert Gates accused Iran on Tuesday of "meddling" in Latin America and said it was a greater concern than Russia's naval visit to Venezuela last year.

"I'm concerned about the level of frankly subversive activity that the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America, particularly South America and Central America," Gates told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Iranians have opened "a lot of" offices that serve as fronts to "interfere in what is going on in some of these countries," Gates said.

Iran has forged stronger ties with US foes in Latin America, such as Cuba and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as has Russia, which sent warships for port calls in Venezuela and Cuba in November and December. It was the first Russian naval presence in the region since the end of the Cold War.

"I'm more concerned about Iranian meddling in the region than I am the Russians," Gates said.

Had it not been for Moscow's August invasion of Georgia, Gates said he would have liked to invite the Russians to port in Miami.

"I think they would've had a lot better time than they did in Caracas," he said. dpa