October 20, 2009 / 9:25 PM / in 8 years

Brazil criticized for visit by Iran's president

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Jewish leaders on Tuesday criticized Brazil’s plans to receive Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next month and urged the South American nation to condemn his denial of the Holocaust and “support of international terrorism.”

Brazil, which has defended dialogue and engagement with Iran, is due to get a visit from Ahmadinejad in late November.

“For us, it is very sad to know that Brazil will receive a man who publicly says he wants to destroy our country,” Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger told reporters after meeting with Brazil’s Senate chief, Jose Sarney.

Metzger, who participated in a religious seminar in the capital, Brasilia, urged Brazilian authorities to call off the visit.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, or SWC, a Jewish human rights organization, said Brazil should use the visit to condemn what it described as Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic rhetoric.

“Brazil will have the opportunity ... to condemn his dangerous calls for the destruction of Israel, his denial of the Holocaust, and his support of international terrorism,” Shimon Samuels and Sergio Widder of SWC Latin America in Buenos Aires said in a letter to Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.

In an e-mailed statement, they said Iran harbored terrorists involved in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. Iran has repeatedly denied any link to the attack.

Brazil’s Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on the Jewish leaders’ remarks but reaffirmed its position of promoting engagement with Iran.

Brazil, a rising 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.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva urged Western leaders Last month to stop pushing Iran over its nuclear program and instead talk to it to foster peace.

Israeli President Shimon Peres is expected to visit Brazil later this year.

Reporting by Raymond Colitt; Editing by Peter Cooney

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