WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A move to force a Venezuelan official to leave the country because of alleged ties to an Iranian plot highlights the threat to U.S. interests, a lawmaker said.
The U.S. State Department informed the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington of an order issued to Livia Anton Acosta Noguera to leave the country. She was under investigation for allegedly plotting against the United States with Iranian diplomats while she was vice secretary at the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico in 2008.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said this was an appropriate step given the perceived threat to U.S. interests.
"We must strengthen our regional alliances to confront the onslaught of anti-democratic forces in Latin America whose goal is to undermine our nation," she said in a statement.
Her comments come as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launches a tour of Latin American countries, an itinerary Ros-Lehtinen described as a "tour of tyrants."
Ahmadinejad is expected in Guatemala this week. Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said Washington has made no secret about where it stands in terms of Iran's controversial nuclear program.
"The issue is to send a strong message to him at every one of these stops that Iran is going to remain isolated and face difficulties if it doesn't do what it needs to do with the United Nations and with the International Atomic Energy Agency," she said.