12 June 2012
Jewish leaders in Latin America have urged Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian president, not to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his visit to the country next week. Ahmadinejad is expected in Rio de Janeiro for a United Nations summit on sustainable development. A delegation of the Jewish Confederation of Brazil (CONIB), the Jewish communities’ umbrella body, stated the request during a meeting with the Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota. In explaining their objections, the members of the Jewish delegation cited fears that Iran’s nuclear program is military in nature and recalled Ahmadinejad’s repeated denials of the Holocaust, as well as Iranian persecution of minorities and critics of the regime.
CONIB and other Jewish organizations are planning protest rallies against Ahmadinejad’s arrival in several cities across Brazil for 17 June. The ‘Rio+20’ conference will be held from 20-22 June as a follow-up to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) that was held in the same city. Mir-Qassem Mo’meni, the head of the Iran-Brazil friendship association, said on Monday that Ahmadinejad and his delegation would leave for Brazil on 19 June to attend the conference. Around 110 heads of state and government, as well as an estimated 50,000 participants, will be present in Rio for the summit.
Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, of which CONIB is an affiliate, told the Jewish news agency AJN: “We lament the presence of Iran’s president, who makes use of international forums such as this to spread hate.” Walter Feldman, a Jewish member of the Brazilian Congress, warned his fellow lawmakers last week that Ahmadinejad was a “danger to Brazil and South America”. He urged the Brazilian government to deny him entry.
“Ahmadinejad is arriving to Brazil at the invitation of the UN, not the Brazilian government,” said Ricardo Berkiensztat, executive vice president of the São Paulo Jewish community. He added the Iranian Foreign Ministry had asked for a meeting with Rousseff, but no such meeting had been scheduled. Berkiensztat said he did not believe such a meeting would take place.
Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who belongs to Rousseff’s party, hosted Ahmadinejad in 2009 in Brazil and visited Tehran the next year, when he brokered a deal to allow Iran to enrich uranium in Turkey (see picture above).
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