Peres: Brazil needs loud voice against terror

AP News
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Posted: Nov 10, 2009 6:09 PM

Israel's president called Tuesday on Brazil, where Iran's president will be welcomed in less than two weeks, to raise its voice against the "terror" he accused Tehran of supporting.

In an address to Brazilian lawmakers, Shimon Peres said it is vital that the South American nation take a stand against the professed desire of Iran's president to destroy the Jewish state.

"We need a voice against terror, against the destruction, a voice for coexistence and peace," Peres said. "I know that Brazil rejects terrorism, and your clear and positive voice has a loud echo around the entire world."

Peres said the link between Iran and terrorist groups is clear.

"The Iranian government is arming, is training terrorist movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah," he said.

On the Palestinian issue, he expressed optimism, saying, "I think that, with boldness, we can achieve peace in the short term, in one or two years."

Iranian Ambassador Mohsen Shaterzadeh didn't directly respond to Peres' comments, but he brushed aside the Israeli's trip.

"We're not against it, we're not disappointed," he told reporters. "It's the Brazilian government's right to organize its relationships with other countries."

It is the first time in more than four decades an Israeli president has visited Brazil, as Israel attempts to battle growing Iranian influence in Latin America.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Nov. 23.

Brazil, Latin America's most populous country, is a growing economic powerhouse and appears to be gaining a diplomatic punch to match. It has become a voice for poor countries in the G-20, and some governments see it as the moderate voice of the region's leftist-led nations.

Israeli officials have expressed concern over Iran's growing ties with Latin American governments, and analysts say Israel would like to avoid Tehran bolstering its standing by gaining Brazilian support.

Israel views Iran as a major strategic threat, fearing it is developing a nuclear weapon and noting its development of long-range ballistic missiles. Concerns have been sharpened by Ahmadinejad's repeated references to the destruction of the Jewish state.

At the U.N. General Assembly in September, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva defended Iran's right to have a nuclear program for energy and called it a "great partner."

But speaking to lawmakers, Peres accused Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon _ a claim Iran soundly rejects, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

"You cannot ignore that this government is building nuclear arms and at the same time calling for the destruction of Israel," Peres said.

Peres is expected to meet with Silva on Wednesday.

In July, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman traveled to Brazil in a bid to enlist help in stymieing Iran's alleged effort to build a nuclear weapon.

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Associated Press Writer Bradley Brooks in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.