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Biden: Iran will not threaten U.S. security through Latin America

By the CNN Wire Staff
March 8, 2012 -- Updated 0334 GMT (1134 HKT)
US Vice President Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with Honduran President Porfirio Lobo in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday.
US Vice President Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with Honduran President Porfirio Lobo in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Biden says the U.S. has "capacity" to stop Iran from influencing Western security
  • Iran has increasingly close ties with several Latin American countries
  • "Iran will not be able to pose a hemispheric threat to the United States," Biden says
  • The vice president says his visit to Mexico and Honduras this week was successful

Miami (CNN) -- Iran will not be able to use alliances with Latin America to wield significant influence on security in the West, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday.

"We have the full capacity to make sure that does not happen," Biden told CNN en Español.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited four Latin American countries in a five-day tour earlier this year, searching for support there amid growing global sanctions targeting his nation's nuclear program.

At a hearing last month, the chairwoman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee said she was deeply concerned about Iran's ties with leaders like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

"These alliances can pose an immediate threat by giving Iran -- directly through the IRGC, the Qods Force, or its proxies like Hezbollah -- a platform in the region to carry out attacks against the United States, our interests, and allies," said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida.

But Biden said Wednesday that such fears were overblown.

"People talk about Hezbollah. They talk about Iranian support for weapons and the rest. I guarantee you, Iran will not be able to pose a hemispheric threat to the United States," he said.

Speaking to CNN en Español in Miami, Biden said his two-day trip to Mexico and Honduras this week was a success.

"It was mostly about violence and what can be done to deal with the violence," Biden said.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon asked for additional assistance vetting local police officers, Biden said. Central American leaders requested similar aid.

Latin American leaders have repeatedly argued that drug use in the United States fuels escalating violence throughout the region.

On Tuesday, Biden told reporters the United States "shared responsibility," but also noted that Central American countries must work to stop drug production.

He told CNN en Español Wednesday that the leaders he met with said they were grateful for U.S. assistance.

"This was not one of those accusation sessions," he said.

CNN's Juan Carlos Lopez contributed to this report.

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