On an important stop in Brazil during her week-long tour of Latin American countries, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to drum the support she was hoping for in favour of the United States’ goal to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions.

At a joint press communiqué with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim in Brasilia on Wednesday Ms. Clinton said, “The Foreign Minister and I discussed our mutual commitment to ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”

While agreeing that Brazil was concerned about the nuclear issue in Iran, Mr. Amorim touched upon the question of using coercive sanctions against Iran saying, “in that regard… our views may prove to differ and not necessarily be in line with each other”.

When asked why Brazil still favoured negotiations over sanctions Mr. Amorim said, “We will not simply bow down to evolving consensus if we do not agree.”

Mr. Amorim cautioned that recent statements about Iran “deceiving and misleading and not being very straightforward with Brazil, Turkey and China” reminded him of the time when, as Ambassador to Turkey in years leading up to the Iraq invasion of 2003, there were similar allegations about Iraq that turned out to be “smoke and mirrors”. Yet the charges against Iraq never materialised, he added.

However Ms. Clinton emphasised the opacity in the Iranian approach regarding the undisclosed secret facility at Qom and the country’s intransigence towards the fuel swap deal proposed.

Uranium enrichment activity at the Qom facility was discovered last September. The deal for Iran to swap its low-enriched uranium for 20 per cent enriched uranium from the West, for use as medical radioisotopes, was temporarily shelved after Iran declared last month that it would undertake such enrichment itself.

While the U.S. respected Brazil’s belief that there was still room for negotiation, Ms. Clinton said, “We are proceeding in the Security Council… because at some point, we have to make a decision”. Mr. Amorim declined to state how Brazil would vote on the Council but added that Brazil had to uphold its view that “sanctions, broadly speaking… tend to have a negative effect”.

In the clearest sign of divergent views Mr. Amorim added that only with difficulty would Iran accept the imposition of a top-down solution and the fuel swap agreement “had a merit to it, because it clearly acknowledged Iran’s right to have a civilian nuclear program, to include enrichment, to a certain extent”.

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