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Michael Chertoff Calls Iran, Venezuela Relationship 'Troubling'

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff on Tuesday called the developing relationship between Iran and Venezuela "troubling," in a statement that suggested the emerging alliance may have considerable implications for national security.

In a speech to the 2007 B'nai Brith policy conference in Washington, D.C., Chertoff spoke in what may be the starkest terms so far about the relationship between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"It clearly is troubling when we have Iranian assists and Iranian surrogates working closely ... in fact when we see the Iranian leadership marching hand in hand with anti-American forces in our continent," Chertoff said.

"I can assure you, without giving away secrets, that we are very mindful of that threat," he said.

Iran and Venezuela are united in their disdain for the U.S. Some reports have indicated that Chavez won't hesitate to cut off his country's oil supply to the United States if it launches an air strike or any military action against Iran. Chertoff suggested that his department and indeed the intelligence community are tracking the growing ties between these two nations and the potential threat it could pose.

What was also significant about the speech was the emphasis Chertoff placed on Al Qaeda's efforts to establish new bases from which to train jihadists and launch attacks in North Africa, Iraq and South Asia.

He said that Al Qaeda and its related groups are achieving control of tangible territory where they can assemble weapons, dominate the locals and extend its control from Afghanistan to North Africa.