Iran to help build houses in Venezuela


Venezuela has signed a deal with Iran to build over 10,000 homes in three central states of the South American nation in a billion-dollar investment package that signals the two country's increasingly close ties.

The two governments signed the agreement on Wednesday, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said in a statement, without detailing how much each country would contribute to the effort that it said would benefit some 45,000 people.

The Venezuelan government in April kicked off a project to build two million homes over the next seven years, with cooperation agreements already signed with Russia, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, China and Belarus.

Venezuela is hoping to alleviate a chronic housing shortfall - in a country with some 28.8 million inhabitants, in 2010 there were just two million homes, according to government figures.

Caracas and Tehran have solidified ties in recent years that extend to being political allies and industrial partners, which has garnered critical attention from the United States.

Washington in June said it was monitoring the relationship and that "no option" was off the table for potential sanctions against President Hugo Chavez's government.

The United States already this year slapped sanctions on Venezuela's state oil giant PDVSA for its commercial ties to Iran, which Washington deems in violation of international sanctions over its nuclear program.