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Syria’s al-Assad backs Brazil-Turkey plan to solve Iran row

July 1st, 2010

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. AFP photo

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad voiced support for the efforts of Brazil and Turkey to broker a diplomatic solution to the international tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.

Under a May accord, Iran agreed to send some of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for higher grade nuclear fuel from Russia and France for a medical research reactor.

Al-Assad described Wednesday the Brazil-Turkey plan, which was rejected when the United Nations imposed new sanctions on Tehran earlier this month, as “fundamental” to any peaceful solution.

The U.S.-led drive to impose tougher U.N. sanctions on Iran was hampered by sustained efforts by Brazil and Turkey to head off the measures and promote their nuclear fuel swap deal.

Western nations fear Iran is bent on developing nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said Wednesday that Brazil and Turkey would like to help mediate in any new negotiations between the Vienna Group – United States, France, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency – and Iran.

Amorim, however, said it was vital that all countries involved in the talks “show a clear interest in our participation.”

Trade agreements

Al-Assad’s comments came after meeting in Brasilia with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva during his first-ever Latin American tour.

In a speech at the foreign ministry, al-Assad proposed a free trade agreement between Syria and the South American trading bloc Mercosur, which consists of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Lula said Brazil “supports ending the obstacles” preventing Syria’s admission to the World Trade Organization, while al-Assad said he backed Brazil’s hopes for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

“The world needs Brazil in the U.N. Security Council because it can help establish a new and more just international order,” al-Assad said.

Lula backed Syria’s demand that Israel return the Golan Heights it occupied after the Six Day War of 1967 and said Damascus should be included in any peace initiative in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians.

During their meeting, the leaders signed a series of cooperation agreements on health, education and extradition proceedings.

Al-Assad has already met President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and President Raul Castro in Cuba on his tour of the region, which wraps up Friday in Argentina.

BRASILIA – Agence France-Presse

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