Iran's leader got a welcoming bear hug from the Brazilian president, who urged Western nations to drop threats of punishment over the Iranian nuclear program and instead negotiate a fair solution.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who also called for diplomacy to push for peace in the Middle East and ease tensions between Iran, the U.S. and other nations, again defended Iran's right to have a peaceful nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad's visit with Silva was condemned by U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. He said Silva made a "serious error" in meeting with the Iranian leader.
The session was significant because Silva is a center-leftist viewed by Washington as a counterweight to more strident leftists in South America, such as the leaders of Bolivia and Venezuela who have been firm supporters of Iran.In addition to having a private lunch with Bolivian President Evo Morales, he was scheduled to inaugurate a hospital and, via video conference, open two milk-processing plants that Iran donated to the poor country.Iran has also donated equipment for a state-run TV station, sold Bolivia 700 tractors made in Venezuela and provided financing for two state-run cement plants. In addition, Iran approved a $280 million low-interest loan for Bolivia that Morales can use as he sees fit,