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Chief rabbi chides Brazil over Ahmadinejad visit

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Israel’s chief rabbi rapped a Brazilian official over a scheduled visit to the country by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In a meeting Tuesday, Rabbi Yona Metzger shared with Brazilian Senate President Jose Sarney his disappointment over Ahmadinejad’s visit, set for next month.

"For us, it is very sad to know that Brazil will receive a man who publicly says he wants to destroy our country," said Metzger, who participated in a religious seminar in the country’s capital, Brasilia.

Last May, an Ahmadinejad visit to Brazil was canceled at the last minute following several protests by left-wing demonstrators and members of the Jewish community.

"It would be very important if President Lula could put off the visit of Iran’s president or even change his mind about it," Metzger told Sarney. "I’m sure that such a decision would be welcome with admiration and support from all over the world."

Sarney, an ex-president of Brazil, told Metzger he was looking forward to receiving Israeli President Shimon Peres in Brazil during a visit slated for later this year.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, said Brazil should use the Iranian president’s visit to condemn what it described as Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic rhetoric.

"Brazil will have the opportunity … to condemn his dangerous calls for the destruction of Israel, his denial of the Holocaust, and his support of international terrorism," Shimon Samuels and Sergio Widder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Latin America in Buenos Aires said in a letter to Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.
 

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