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Reconsider Iran ties, U.S. lawmaker tells Brazil

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Brazil must reconsider its relations with Iran, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Latin America subcommittee said.

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) convened a meeting of his subcommittee Tuesday to consider the reach of Iranian influence in Latin America. Much of Engel’s focus in his opening remarks was on relations between Iran and the Hugo Chavez regime in Venezuela, but then he turned to Brazil.

"When Venezuela expands its relations with Iran, I may not like it, but I chalk it up to President Chavez and his altered sense of the world," Engel said. "But when Brazil expands its ties to Iran — just as the world is trying to deal with the secretive Iranian nuclear program — I’m left bewildered."

Engel met last week with the Brazilian ambassador to Washington to protest a planned November visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Brazil. The meeting ended contentiously, Brazilian media reported.

"Brazil is a rapidly modernizing country which wants to join the U.N. Security Council and be a world leader," Engel said at Tuesday’s hearing. "I truly hope Brazil reaches that point, but expanding ties to Ahmadinejad, who denies the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of another nation-state, Israel, is not the way to get there.

"In the future, I think we have to expand our dialogue with Brazil on the dangerous role of Iran and encourage our friends in Brasilia to reconsider their ties with Tehran."

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