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Diplomatic Strains Between Israel and Brazil on Uranium Rumor Fade

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Brazil’s Ambassador to Israel, Vasco Mariz, is expected to return to his post in Tel Aviv shortly, marking the end of a diplomatic crisis that developed between the two countries after a Brazilian newspaper claimed that agents of Mossad, Israel’s secret service, had accused Brazil of shipping Uranium to Iraq.

Mariz was recalled a week ago for “consultations,” a gesture of the Brazilian government’s anger over the accusation. Israel’s Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir categorically denied that Mossad or any Israeli officials had made the charge, first published in the daily Jornal Do Brasil, and carried by other newspapers here and abroad.

Foreign Minister Saraiva Guerreiro said, after receiving a letter from Shamir, that “it is a good note.” He said he recalled Moriz because “he can give us a good analysis of the situation.” Following two meetings at the Foreign Ministry in Brasilia, the envoy told reporters this week that he would probably be returning to Israel “in a few days.”

The Jornal Do Brasil report was written by Mario Shimanovich, the paper’s correspondent in Israel. He claimed that a Mossad agent come to his home in Tel Aviv and supplied him with information on a secret shipment of pure uranium from Brazil to Iraq last February on a Soviet-built Iraqi Illyushin transport plane. Israel’s Ambassador to Brazil, Shaul Ramati, said the Shimanovich story was “obviously ridiculous.” He accused the reporter of trying to undermine Israeli-Brazilian relations and expressed surprise that the Brazilian authorities took the report seriously.

The newspaper Estado De Sao Paulo also published a story claiming that Brazil sent Uranium to Iraq. But the paper said its information came from reliable local sources, not Mossad. The editor of Estado De Sao Paulo cabled this to Ze’ev Hafetz, director of the Israel Government Press Office in Jerusalem, who had made inquiries. Similarly, the British newspaper Guardian, whose Brazilian correspondent filed the same story, cabled Hafetz to say that it was based on “local, highly reliable sources” which had “nothing to do with the Israeli secret service.”

According to reports from Tel Aviv, Shimanovich was summoned by the Israeli authorities for an explanation and may be expelled from the country.

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