President Hugo Chavez's government has agreed to strengthen military ties with Iran.

Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar met with Chavez for an hour late Wednesday and said they discussed defense cooperation to "protect peace and tranquility in the region," Venezuela's Information Ministry said in a statement.

"There's a strategic alliance between Venezuela and Iran," Najjar was quoted as saying. "There's a great deal of economic and industrial cooperation, and we started cooperating in the area of defense five years ago."

The government said Najjar and Vice President Ramon Carrizalez signed a memorandum of understanding to deepen military cooperation, though it did not say what that would entail.

Chavez has built a close relationship with Iran, which has stepped up its presence in Venezuela and is helping to build public housing and manufacture cars, tractors and bicycles in the country.

Najjar said the military cooperation "doesn't represent any threat for any of the nations" in the region.

The defense minister arrived Monday for three-day visit, according to Iran's official IRNA news agency.