Brazil’s president to visit Middle East

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The president of Brazil, who has sparked controversy by his continued relationship with Iran, will visit Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva will be the first president from the largest Latin American country to visit Israel in an official capacity.  A statement released last week by Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim indicates that the president may present a new peace initiative during his visit, scheduled for March 14-18.

Since his election, Silva has tried to position Brazil as a mediator in the Middle East, having hosted Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2009. He has stated that he supports both Israel’s right to exist and an independent Palestinian state.

Although Iran’s president has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, Silva maintains a close relationship with Iran. He openly supports Iran’s self-declared right to nuclear energy. Brazil hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last November; Silva will return the gesture by visiting Tehran in May.

(This is the corrected version of an earlier report that contained an error regarding the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement.)

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