Cablegate: Brazilian Foreign Minister - and Possible Candidate for Iaea Director General - On Iran
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHBR #1188/01 2661814
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231814Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5137
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 9966
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8229
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 4585
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 001188
STATE PASS WHA/EPSC AND EEB/BTA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/23/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID ECON IS
SUBJECT: BRAZILIAN FOREIGN MINISTER - AND POSSIBLE CANDIDATE FOR IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL - ON IRAN
REF: A) BRASILIA 304,
B) RIO DE JANEIRO 52,
C) BRASILIA 667
Classified by: Charge d'Affaires Lisa Kubiske. Reason 1.4a and b
1. (C) SUMMARY: There have been press reports that Brazil's Minister for Exterior Relations Celso Amorim wants to be a candidate to become the next Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Although Amorim has denied any interest in the IAEA job, the persistence of the reports and their likely origin within the MRE indicate that he should be viewed as a potential candidate should any of the present candidates fail to gain sufficient votes. Given the prominent role the IAEA plays in trying to learn more about Iran's nuclear program and deter nuclear proliferation, Post has collected highlights of Amorim's recent actions and public statements about Iran. In brief, Amorim has welcomed closer ties between Brazil and Iran, but has not openly embraced Iran's activities or views. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) In November of 2008, Minister Celso Amorim of the Brazilian Ministry of Exterior Relations (MRE) traveled to Tehran to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This marked the first time in 17 years that a Brazilian senior diplomat had been to the country. While in Iran, Amorim and Ahmadinejad closed several bilateral commercial agreements between the two countries. Moreover, Amorim proposed a visit by the Iranian president to Brazil in 2009. The two sides also reportedly discussed nuclear issues during the visit. Amorim commented that "Brazil recognizes that all countries have the right to develop nuclear programs for pacific means," a common refrain from Brazilian officials when discussing Iran's nuclear program.
3. (C) Pursuant to Amorim's invitation, Ahmadinejad had planned to lead a delegation to Brazil in May. However, the trip was postponed at the last minute. A day after Ahmadinejad made controversial remarks at the United Nations World Conference on Racism in Geneva on April 20, 2009 regarding Israel and the Holocaust, the MRE released a note criticizing his comments. Despite the MRE's criticism, Amorim had continued to affirm that Brazil's desire to cooperate with Iran and his continued support for Ahmadinejad's trip to Brazil. In an interview with the press shortly after the United Nations conference, Amorim explained his reasons. He said that Brazil must engage in a dialogue with Iran because it is a country with a large population, economic wealth, and "history." He explained that meeting with Iran "doesn't keep us from expressing an opinion. [The MRE] issued a statement which [was published] on our position (censoring Ahmadinejad's statements on the Holocaust). That is not going to keep us from cooperating, nor from saying what we think." Amorim said he considers Iran a key component to creating and maintaining peace in the Middle East, and would like to see more western involvement with the country. In addition, he noted that President Obama has also expressed what Amorim believed was a similar desire to open a dialogue with Iran.
4. (C) The day before Ahmadinejad was scheduled to leave on a tour of several South American countries, starting in Brazil, he postponed the trip without providing any specific reasons. In the days leading up to the suspended visit, the Israeli Government had formally complained to the Brazilian Ambassador in Israel about Ahmadinejad's upcoming visit to Brazil. Further, several hundred Brazilians held protests in plazas in the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian Minister on Human Rights, Paulo Vannuchi, came out shortly after the postponement to express his relief. In interviews with the press, Vannuchi stated that "questioning the Holocaust is a grave problem . . . and as the Minister on Human Rights, I cannot adopt the attitude of thinking that this is not a problem," and affirmed that he would recommend to Amorim that Brazil in no way accept Ahmadinejad's proclamation.
5. (C) Despite the postponement, Amorim continues to affirm that both the Brazilian and Iranian governments are on good terms and that he continues to welcome a visit to Brazil by the Iranian President. In public remarks following the suspension of the trip, Amorim explained, "we don't talk with just the countries we agree with. . . . We do not agree with some of [President Ahmadinejad's] opinions. We've already said that, and we don't need to repeat it . . . but that should not impede us from forming a dialogue because we cannot talk to only those with whom we agree, that isn't a dialogue; it is a monologue." Amorim stated that Brazil would like to maintain a dialogue between their government and that of Iran, and that Brazil welcomes a visit by Ahmadinejad or whoever might replace him after the June 12 elections in Iran.
6. (C) COMMENT. Brazil's intent in seeking closer relations with Iran is driven by the broad objectives of President Lula's foreign policy: to cultivate a major regional economic and political player,
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as it has also done for example with South Africa, Turkey, and Egypt, with a particular interest in boosting exports, but also with an eye toward increasing its own perceived standing as a global political player that "can talk to all sides." Amorim's predisposition to dialogue with Iran, North Korea and other non-democratic states has been a cornerstone of Brazil's foreign policy during his tenure. However, Brazil is also careful to adhere to UN sanctions regimes, and its reaction to the recent DPRK nuclear test (REFTEL C) demonstrates that it takes these issues seriously. Indications are that he would attempt to follow the same principles if he were to become head of the IAEA. MRE sources have been quoted in the press stating that they believe Amorim's good relations with Iran and the United States would be to his advantage in the IAEA context. Amorim's affirmation of Iran's "right" to nuclear energy (paralleling the right claimed by Brazil in its Defense Strategy), without mentioning Iran's non-compliance with its IAEA obligations could, however, raise objections to an Amorim candidacy among IAEA members.