RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Israel’s foreign minister met with Brazil’s president one day after Brazil was announced as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s first international visit in his second term.
Brazil, Israel’s main commercial partner in South America, is Avigdor Lieberman’s first stop on a 10-day trip to the region that also includes Argentina, Colombia and Peru. The trip will tackle a series of diplomatic issues ranging from economic cooperation to the Iranian nuclear threat.
Both Israel and Iran have openly sought President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva’s support. Lieberman wants to gather backing from Brazil and other Latin American countries against Iran.
"I believe that Brazil, more than other countries, could try to convince the Iranians to stop their nuclear program," Lieberman said after Wednesday’s meeting with Lula.
Lieberman added that Brazil’s friendly relations with the Arab world and the Palestinians could give the country an important role in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.
Brazil’s foreign minister, Celso Amorim, declared that Brazil will welcome Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, in August. Last May, an Ahmadinejad visit to Brazil was canceled at the last minute after several protests by left-wingers and members of the Jewish community. Instead of joining international criticism of the recent Iranian elections, Lula was fast to recognize Ahmadinejad’s victory.
Lieberman also held meetings with other Brazilian officials and members of the country’s 120,000-member Jewish community. He said Israeli President Shimon Peres will visit Brazil in November.
Hours before Lieberman’s landmark visit to Brazil, the first by an Israeli foreign minister in 22 years, a leading member of Lula’s Workers Party called the Israeli "a racist and a fascist."