Brazil seeks closer trade ties with Iran
Pittsburgh: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said his country wants increased trade relations and dialogue with Iran, despite confirmation that Tehran has built a second nuclear-enrichment plant.
"Brazil has good trade relations with Iran and we want to strengthen them," Lula told a press conference after the G20 summit.
The President said he will receive Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as scheduled on November 23 and plans to visit Iran next year.
Lula said it is important to establish a dialogue with the government of Tehran and that he does not favour a policy of isolation, although he added that he opposes the development of nuclear weapons by Iran or any other country.
The Brazilian leader discussed Iran's nuclear program with his US counterpart Barack Obama in an informal conversation on Friday, moments before the start of the final session of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Brazil's Ambassador to the US, Antonio Patriota, said.
Obama told Lula that "he thought it was positive that Brazil talk with Iran. He agreed with President Lula that it is unproductive to isolate Iran and (it is good that) Iran talk with at least a handful of countries," Patriota said.
The White House has not commented on Obama's talks with Lula.
Brazil's presidential advisor, Marco Aurelio Garcia, also confirmed that Brazil will continue to pursue closer ties with Iran even after the US, Britain and France described Tehran's new uranium-enrichment plant as a direct challenge to the international community.
Western nations have expressed concern over Iran's nuclear intentions, although that nation's government says its uranium-enrichment projects are solely for electricity generation.
"Do we want to corner Iran or do we want to change Iran's nuclear policy? Brazil's policy is to change Iran's nuclear policy and firmly guarantee that Iran will not have a nuclear bomb," Garcia said.
"We already know where the policy of cornering (countries) leads, to Pakistan and North Korea," the Brazilian official added, referring to two non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that have developed atomic weapons.
Iran has made a push in recent years to pursue ties with leftist countries critical of US foreign policy, including Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
Brazil, whose trade with Iran totalled roughly USD 2 billion in 2007, has strong ties with the US but is asserting an increasing leadership role in Latin America.
Lula's government has opposed Washington's policy vis-à-vis Communist-led Cuba and expressed reservations about a new deal giving US troops access to Colombian military bases.