Brazil: Ties with Iran important to Mideast peace

AP News
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Posted: Nov 11, 2009 4:16 PM

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva defended Brazil's friendly relations with Iran on Wednesday, saying such ties are necessary to build lasting peace in the Middle East.

Speaking to reporters alongside Israeli President Shimon Peres, Silva said the peace process must include all parties in that region.

"You can't build the peace necessary in the Middle East if you don't talk to all of political and religious forces that want peace or oppose peace," Silva told an Israeli journalist, after being asked about his ties to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad _ who has called for the annihilation of Israel.

Peres jumped in to remark, "We appreciate that Brazil is against terror, against threats to destroy other nations, against those who try to kill innocent people."

Peres arrived Tuesday for a Latin American tour as Israel attempts to battle growing Iranian influence in the region.

Ahmadinejad is scheduled to visit Brazil on Nov. 23 and meet with Silva _ something that has irritated the Jewish community in this South American country.

Israel views Iran as a major strategic threat, fearing it is developing a nuclear weapon and noting its development of long-range ballistic missiles.

Brazil, Latin America's most populous country, is a growing economic powerhouse and appears to be gaining a diplomatic punch to match. Analysts say Israel would like to avoid Iran bolstering its standing by gaining Brazilian support.

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

Peres said he invited the Brazilian president to visit Israel next year.

"I understand the president also wants to visit the Palestinian side. Brazil is friendly with the Palestinian side, and we also want to be friendly with them," Peres said. "There is no contradiction."