Venezuela's Maduro to visit Iran for co-operation agreements

Iran recently sent five fuel tankers to Venezuela

Handout picture released by the Venezuelan Presidency showing Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaking during a televised message announcing new arrests related to an alleged failed bid to topple him, at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas on May 9, 2020, during the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic. Venezuelan military said it had thwarted an attempted invasion by mercenaries in the early hours of May 3. Maduro has accused US President Donald Trump of being behind the alleged invasion while Trump has roundly rejected the accusation, telling Fox News on May 8: "If I wanted to go into Venezuela I wouldn't make a secret about it." - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / VENEZUELA'S PRESIDENCY / MARCELO GARCIA" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
 / AFP / Venezuelan Presidency / Marcelo GARCIA / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / VENEZUELA'S PRESIDENCY / MARCELO GARCIA" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said he would visit Iran shortly to sign co-operation agreements in energy and other sectors, after Iran sent five fuel tankers to the petrol-starved South American country.

"I am obliged to go to personally thank the people," Mr Maduro said in a state television address, without providing a date for the visit.

Last week, Mr Maduro said he was considering whether to raise the price of petrol in Venezuela, where it currently costs less than one US cent a gallon (about 4 fils per litre).

Despite possessing the world’s largest underground oil reserves, the country is unable to pump crude from the ground and has been forced to bridge deep shortages by buying fuel from Iran.

The shipments mark a new era in the relationship between Venezuela and Iran, both of which face stiff sanctions by the Trump administration.

The US recognises opposition politician Juan Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader in a coalition of nearly 60 nations, which consider Mr Maduro's election a fraud because his most popular rivals were banned from running.