x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Israel and Iran visit Brazil

Dueling visits to Brazil by the presidents of Israel and Iran are showing the South American powerhouse's growing role in Mideast diplomacy.

RIO DE JANEIRO // Dueling visits to Brazil by the presidents of Israel and Iran are showing the South American powerhouse's growing role in Mideast diplomacy. Israeli President Shimon Peres opens a visit to Brazil on Tuesday, in the Jewish state's latest bid to battle growing Iranian influence in Latin America. Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due on November 23, and Brazilian officials say Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas may visit later this month.

During his seven years in office, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has maintained a broad range of ties around the world - from Cuba's Castro brothers to former President George W Bush to Ahmadinejad - and analysts say he is becoming a key player in Israel's diplomatic struggles. "This is a chance for the Brazilians to perhaps play a constructive role in the Middle East peace process and to demonstrate a greater grasp and involvement in one of the issues most critical to world peace," said Ray Walser, with the Washington-based Heritage Foundation think tank.

Brazil, Latin America's most populous country, has emerged as an economic powerhouse in recent years, and appears to be gaining a diplomatic punch to match. It has become a voice for poor countries in the G-20. And adding to its influence, some foreign governments see it as the moderate voice of Latin America's leftist-led countries. * AP