President Shimon Peres scolded the Brazilian foreign minister Sunday for hosting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad nearly three years ago.
“That leader should be boycotted and should not be welcomed by the leaders of the world,” Peres told Antonio Patriota in Jerusalem.
In November 2009, then-president of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — commonly known as Lula — hosted Ahmadinejad and his 200-strong entourage in Brasilia, where he addressed the Brazilian congress. The visit was sharply condemned by Israeli and Jewish leaders.
“When we met in 2010, I told former president Lula that it was a mistake to sit and talk with Ahmadinejad, a leader who threatens the destruction of a people, a leader who denies the Holocaust and a leader who funds international terrorism,” Peres told Patriota.
‘The Iranian nuclear threat casts a heavy shadow over the whole region. All the options must be on the table’
“They are financing and arming terrorist groups, including Hamas, which is an obstacle to peace. They send arms to Syria, they send arms to Hezbollah. We cannot close our eyes to those threats. Iran’s threats to destroy another country contravene the UN charter.
“Do not be mistaken: Iran is developing nuclear weapons,” Peres told Patriota, who was scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday evening. “The Iranian nuclear threat casts a heavy shadow over the whole region. All the options must be on the table. We would all prefer to solve the problem through negotiations or economic sanctions but if those methods fail, the military option will remain and will be serious and credible.”
Patriota, who was present when Lula received Ahmadinejad, responded by saying that Lula had made clear Brazil’s opposition to Holocaust denial and believed strongly in a Middle East free of nuclear weapons — and that this was still the Brazilian position.
While Brasilia considers Israel a friend of Brazil, the Latin American country watched “with grave concern Israel’s threats to attack Iran,” according to the statement released by Peres’s office. The visiting minister “went on to say that these threats and their potential consequences are dangerous to the stability of the Middle East.”
Iran enjoys strong ties with several countries in South America, including Venezuela, whose recently reelected leader Hugo Chavez is an ally of Ahmadinejad.
Argentina, whose capital, Buenos Aires, was the site of a 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in which 85 people were killed, also maintains trade relations with Iran, which is suspected of involvement in the attack. On Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League slammed Argentina for opening a dialogue with Iran over its investigation of the bombing.
“At a time when the international community is sanctioning Iran over its nuclear aspirations, countries like Argentina, that have been direct targets of Iranian terror, should be at the forefront of isolating rather than engaging in a sham negotiation with its rogue regime,” ADL Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement. “These bilateral meetings only serve the interests of the Iranian perpetrators in their ongoing attempts to evade the consequences of their culpability in the attack and to bypass the Argentine justice system. There should be no dialogue with terrorists.”
While in Jerusalem, Patriota hailed growing trade relations between the two nations. The Brazilian foreign minister also said that Brazil “would like to see substantial progress made in the peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Peace remains of the utmost importance,” Peres responded, “but right now we have to be careful during this transitional period, until things are clearer, so as not to damage the existing connections and structures.”