Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Sunday helped broker a deal with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that would see Iran ship the bulk of its enriched uranium to nearby Turkey, a move intended to avoid the U.N. sanctions against Iran that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had been pushing for.
The meeting in Tehran ended with Lula and Ahmadinejad locking their raised hands together and smiling along with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, a powerful image for developing world powers who see U.S. dominance in global affairs as a thing of the past.
The U.S., as expected, reacted coolly to the proposal.
Lula has sought to broaden Brazil's global stance with diplomatic triumphs outside of the country's immediate interests, even if that means occasionally crossing the United States and angering Brazil's elites. Brazil, home to South America's largest economy, previously has taken positions contrary to the United States on climate change, last year's coup in Honduras and the embargo against Cuba, notes the New York Times. Lula has previously said he believed Iran had a right to nuclear energy to be used for peaceful purposes.
Iran, meanwhile, had hoped to avoid U.N. sanctions through diplomatic channels -- while not appearing to bow to pressure from America and its Western allies. Now the Iran-Brazil friendship is growing, reports Al Jazeera, and this week's agreement with Turkey gives both countries the sheen of independent winners.
But is Lula really just looking out for himself? As one historian tells Al Jazeera, the Brazilian president is frank about his goals to one day be named to a high-profile international position, such as U.N. secretary general. The deal he helped broker between Turkey and Iran is one more step in that direction, said Marco Antonio Villa, a professor at the Federal University in São Carlos.
"We all know it’s his dream to be secretary general of the United Nations. So he is using Brazilian foreign policy to his personal advantage, to raise his profile, and possibly [he] gains votes from Arab countries and countries friendly to Iran," Villa said. "I find that very grave, because never before in Brazilian history [has] a president used Brazilian diplomacy for personal interests.”
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photo: Leaders -- Lula, second from left; Ahmadinejad, center; and Erdogan, at right -- cheer after Iran signs deal to move enriched uranium to Turkey on Sunday. Credit: AFP