Brazil's Silva says Iran sanctions dangerous

President argues that economic punishment could lead to war in the Middle East

Published March 9, 2010 6:13PM (EST)

Brazil's president warned Tuesday that U.S.-proposed sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program could lead to war in the Middle East.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in an interview with The Associated Press that sanctions could isolate Iran so much that tensions would spiral out of control. And that, he suggested, might lead to war.

"We don't want to repeat in Iran what happened in Iraq," Silva said, a week after rebuffing U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton's appeal for Brazilian support for a new round of tough sanctions.

Iran has accelerated its disputed nuclear program in the face of previous U.N. penalties, but the United States and other supporters say a renewed demonstration of world resolve could finally push Iran to the bargaining table.

Silva said that Brazil won't support the sanctions and that he will try during to convince Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a visit in Tehran in May to restart negotiations to ease concerns about the nation's nuclear program.

"I have already told them (Iranian officials) that a war must be avoided at all costs," Silva said. "In whose interest is a war?"

He made the comments before heading to the Middle East this week for visits to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian-governed West Bank.

Silva said Brazil is uniquely qualified to be an intermediary in negotiations with Iran because Brazil has a peaceful nuclear program and is using its growing economic heft to assume a larger role on the international stage.

Silva also predicted that a global deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be clinched at a planned December U.N. climate summit in Cancun, Mexico.

And he defended the woman he hand-picked to succeed him as president from criticism she could steer Latin America's largest nation to the left and exert greater state control over the economy.

Presidential Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff will maintain Brazil's free market economic policies and is well-prepared to become the country's first female president despite never having run for office, he said.

"I wouldn't offer the Brazilian people a person who I don't have confidence in," Silva said in the interview at his presidential offices.

By Alan Clendenning

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Brazil Iran Latin America Middle East