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Protesters welcome Israeli FM in Argentina

BuenosAires

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has arrived in Argentina as many took to the streets to protest his visit to the Latin American country.

Lieberman’s visit to Argentina is the latest leg of his 10-day tour of South American states for what the Israeli foreign ministry has described as countering Iran’s growing inroad into Latin American countries.

In the capital, Buenos Aires, several hundred protesters demonstrated against his visit and Israeli policies in the Middle East, AP reported.

The foreign minister arrived in Argentina after his first stop in Brazil, where he failed to drum up support for setting up an anti-Iran front in collaboration with the Latin American country.

In Brazil, Lieberman took part in a joint news conference with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his counterpart Celso Amorim, during which he said Brazil should make good use of its growing ties with Iran to help bring to a halt the country’s nuclear activities.

“I believe that Brazil, more than other countries, could try to convince the Iranians to stop their nuclear program,” Lieberman said.

The West, spearheaded by the US and Israel, accuses Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

Tehran rejects the allegation that it is pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program, arguing that the NPT grants its members the right to conduct peaceful nuclear programs.

In response to Israel’s request for a change in stance toward Iran over its nuclear program, the Brazilian foreign minister defended Tehran’s development of nuclear technology for “exclusively non-military” purposes and within a “verifiable” framework.

The Brazilian official then took an apparent swipe at Israel over its blunt refusal to sign the NPT. “Brazil would like all countries to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty” and wants to see “a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.”

Israel, which is believed to be the Middle East’s sole possessor of nuclear warheads, has shrugged off requests to join the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory.

Iran and Brazil have maintained increasingly close diplomatic and trade ties as part of a trend in Latin America that has caused Israel and its staunch ally, the United States, to worry.

After his stop in Argentina, Lieberman is scheduled to visit Peru and Colombia, before returning to Israel.

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