Chávez awaits Iran's Ahmadinejad after warm Brazil visit
The strong ties between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chávez are well known. But Brazil's support has set this regional tour apart.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But as he moves into more familiar territory – the world has long become accustomed to his hearty hugs with Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez – he is buoyed by his first leg in Brazil, a visit that sets this regional tour apart from those of the past.
Mr. Ahmadinejad's welcome by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva helped him shore up badly needed support, amid disputed presidential elections at home and international attempts to isolate Iran over its nuclear program.
"We can predict the results of a trip to Venezuela or Bolivia. ... But given the importance of Brazil, there was more at stake," says Daniel Brumberg, acting director of the Muslim World Initiative at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, adding that Ahmadinejad has gained much more than his Latin American peers on his trip so far.
Brazil reaffirmed its support of a peaceful nuclear energy program in Iran. Mr. da Silva urged the Iranian leader to seek a "just and balanced solution" with Western nations over its nuclear program, after Iran last week appeared to reject the terms of an Oct. 1 agreement that would have sent its enriched uranium to other nations for further processing – thus allaying international fears that the Tehran could quickly develop a nuclear weapon. In return, Ahmadinejad supported Brazil's push to be a permanent member on the United Nations Security Council.
"[Da Silva] could have used its good relations with the US and its strategic role in the region to prod Iranians at the very least to coming back to the table to honor the agreement [they] seemed to embrace in October over uranium enrichment," Brumberg says. "There must be mild disappointment in the administration that the Brazilian president did not use the moment."
Ahmadinejad moved on to La Paz, Bolivia, on Tuesday, where President Evo Morales greeted him with full military honors, and will later head to meetings with Mr. Chávez in Venezuela, where opportunities for trade and energy deals are expected to be discussed.