Controversial Iranian leader in new Brazil visit

November 23rd, 2009

Photo: karimii,flickr

Photo: karimii,flickr

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is expected to raise human rights issues with Iranian leader Mahmoud, Ahmadinejad, while outlining his continued support for Iran’s nuclear programme, which has sent alarm bells ringing among western nations.

Ahmadinejad makes a stopover in Brazil on Monday, as part of a five-nation trip, including: Bolivia, Venezuela, Senegal and Gambia, aimed at boosting economic ties.

Last week, Iran appeared to reject plans to send most of its stocks of low-enriched uranium abroad, delivering a heavy blow to UN-brokered efforts to ease Western fears it could use the material to make a nuclear bomb.

So far, Brazil has far backed the Islamic state saying it has the right to peaceful nuclear power. President Lula is opposed to international sanctions on Iran.

On a visit to Brazil two weeks ago, Israeli President Shimon Peres called on Brazil to use its influence to challenge Iranian threats against his country.

Though Iran insists its nuclear energy programme is for peaceful purposes, Ahmadinejad’s previous questioning of neighbouring Israel’s right to exist has provoked understandable nervousness.

For the Brazilian government, the visit is seen as an opportunity to boost trade links, while developing an independent foreign policy, including relations with increasingly influential countries.

In May, Ahmadinejad cancelled a visit to Brazil scheduled, staying at home to concentrate on elections, the results of which later sparked widespread protests by opposition groups, amid allegations of fraud.

Ahmadinejad’s new visit, like first one has angered Jewish and human rights groups, leading to protests in Brazil.

Opponents of the visit argue Brazil should not be rolling out the red carpet to a leader who has repeatedly questioned whether the holocaust took place and openly supports the oppression of women and the persecution of homosexuals.

Protestors, waving placards in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, compared Ahmadinejad’s denial of the holocaust with denying the shipment of three million slaves from Africa to Brazil from the 16th to the end of the 19th century.

The treatment of women´s rights and the persecution of gays are seen as other reasons why Brazil should not get involved with Iran.

Opponents also say Lula  — a symbol of Brazil´s struggle to free itself from military dictatorship — should not be rolling out the red carpet to a leader who openly promotes oppression.

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