November 11, 2009 / 8:28 PM / 8 years ago

Lula rebuffs criticism over Ahmadinejad visit

BRASILIA, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Brazil’s president rejected criticism on Wednesday over the president of Iran’s upcoming visit to the South American country, saying all sides needed to be involved to achieve peace in the Middle East.

"One does not build the peace necessary in the Middle East if one doesn’t speak to all the political and religious factions," President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told reporters during a visit by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Peres’ visit to the Latin American giant comes two weeks before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to come to Brazil on Nov. 23.

Jewish leaders have criticized Brazil’s plans to receive the Iranian president, urging it to condemn his denial of the Holocaust and "support of international terrorism."

Peres has urged Brazil to use its growing voice on the international stage to help curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and support for militant Palestinian groups. He attacked Iran as a "global danger" bent on destroying Israel in a speech on Tuesday to the Brazilian Congress.

Brazil, a rising economic and diplomatic power campaigning to gain a permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council, has adopted a more conciliatory line toward Iran than Western allies, including the United States. Lula has urged Western leaders to stop challenging Iran over its nuclear program and instead talk to it to foster peace.

Lula said that negotiations to acquire unmanned planes from Israel to protect Brazil’s borders were in advanced stages, but gave no further details.

(Reporting by Ana Nicolaci da Costa; editing by Stuart Grudgings and Philip Barbara)

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