Monday, November 29, 1999

Lula, Ahmadinejad talk trade; silent on nuclear issue

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Tehran, May 16 (DPA) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held talks with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Tehran Sunday, but there was no public comment by the pair on Iran's disputed nuclear programme.Instead the Iranian president hailed Brazil - South America's largest economy - as a fellow 'future power', whilst the two discussed their countries' $10-billion bilateral trade.Despite the ongoing international controversy over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, an initial joint statement from the two leaders was silent on the subject.Iran had previously played down the nuclear issue, saying the it was only one topic to be discussed. Others had billed the meeting with Brazil - seen as a moderate intermediary between the US and Iran - as a last chance for Tehran to avoid renewed UN Security Council resolutions.Instead the joint statement focused only on an increase of two-way trade.Ahmadinejad was quoted by the ISNA news agency saying that Iran and Brazil were the two 'future powers' and settlement of many world issues 'depended on reaching an understanding with countries such as the two.''The hegemonic powers belong to the past while Iran and Brazil belong to the future and cooperation between these two countries could be a suitable model for independent and developing countries,' Ahmadinejad said.Lula was quoted by ISNA as saying that a close cooperation among developing countries could establish a new, strong and effective bloc.According to official news agency IRNA, the two countries signed 11 agreements in various fields, such as banking, sports and environment.The permanent UN Security Council members - the US, Russia, Britain, France and China - are discussing, along with Germany, a new set of sanctions to increase pressure on Tehran to rein in its nuclear activities. Russia and China have proved reluctant so far.Lula, whose country is currently one of the 15 UN Security Council members, has so far rejected new UN sanctions on Iran and is aiming to mediate a diplomatic settlement to the dispute.After the end of his first meeting with Ahmadinejad, Lula also met with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who, according to the Iranian constitution, has the final say on all state affairs.Khamenei praised Brazil as a country which has not given in to US hegemony and called on closer relations among independent and non-aligned countries.The ayatollah was quoted by state television as saying that the current world order, which is dominated by a few countries, especially the US, could be changed by closer cooperation by independent countries such as Iran and Brazil.He further said that Washington was therefore upset with alliances of independent countries, adding this was also the reason for the 'US ballyhoo' before Lula's trip to Iran.

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