Iran has taken a major step forward to establish close ties with Brazil as part of an effort to deepen relations with Latin America.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is set to hold talks in Brasilia, where he arrived on Monday, with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. A large private sector delegation is accompanying Mr. Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian President’s visit will also take him to oil rich Venezuela and Bolivia, where Leftist governments have already allied with Tehran.

Ahead of the visit, Brazil has supported Iran on two key issues.

Brazil backs Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear programme. It is also opposed to the imposition of further sanctions, preferring instead, the use of diplomacy to defuse tensions on the nuclear issue between Tehran and the West. Analysts say Brazil could have the credentials and the ambition to emerge as a mediator to settle differences between Iran and the global powers.

Mr. Lula is rolling out the red carpet for the Iranian President in the teeth of some American, and substantial Israeli opposition to the visit. U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood hoped that Brazil would raise some of Washington’s concerns with the Iranian leader when they meet. New York congressman Eliot Engel said the Brazilian President was making “a serious error” by “lending legitimacy” to his Iranian counterpart by according him a visit.

However, some observers say U.S. President Barack Obama during his meeting with Brazilian President, has encouraged the latter to break diplomatic ground with Iran.

Iran’s arch-foe Israel has strongly opposed the visit. Addressing the Brazilian Congress a few weeks before Mr. Ahmadinejad’s visit, Israeli President Shimon Peres had said: “I don’t want to argue about the President of Iran on Brazilian soil, but we think his policies are a global danger.” Mr. Ahmadinejad will also address the Brazilian legislature and the University of Brasilia.

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