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Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva welcomes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

November 23, 2009 |  6:05 pm

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva warmly received Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Brasilia today and defended Tehran's right to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Lula, who has taken flak for hosting the controversial Ahmadinejad, said a "just and balanced solution" should be found to international concerns about Iran's nuclear development program. Iran says its program is for civilian energy purposes, but the U.S. and many other Western powers allege Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

"We recognize Iran’s right to develop a peaceful nuclear program in compliance with international accords," Lula said in a prepared speech at a news conference with Ahmadinejad, according to Reuters. The Brazilian leader then turned to his guest and said: "I encourage you to continue engaging interested countries to seek a just and balanced solution on the Iranian nuclear issue."

Lula said earlier that other nations should engage Iran in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East despite Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and expressed desire to see Israel disappear.

"There's no point in leaving Iran isolated," Lula reportedly said on his radio program before the two leaders met. "It's important that someone sits down with Iran, talks with Iran and tries to establish some balance so that the Middle East can return to a certain sense of normalcy."

Iranian officials have said Tehran hopes to expand trade with Brazil in the petrochemical, energy, agricultural and medical fields.

— Chris Kraul in Bogota, Colombia