US Says Hillary Clinton Was Misunderstood on Iran. Brazil Is Free to Choose Friends

Hillary Clinton Brazil's Special Adviser for International Affairs of the Presidency, Marco Aurélio Garcia, reiterated Brazil's position in defense of the laissez-passer (government permission to freely travel) for ousted president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya.

Garcia said this was also the position taken by the U.S. government, expressed today, December 14, during a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs of the United States, responsible for Latin America, Arturo Valenzuela.

"The secretary said he favored the safe-conduct pass, and stated that we need to unlock this situation," Garcia said after the meeting. "We expressed our concern that the episode of Honduras will not set a precedent that could destabilize democracy in the region, particularly in Central America, where the democratic process is more recent," he added.

Zelaya had asked last week to leave the country as "honored guest," but the interim government would only agree to his departure if he asked for political asylum in another country, a condition rejected by the deposed leader. With the decision to deny a safe-conduct, Zelaya remains at the Embassy of Brazil in Tegucigalpa, where he is staying since September 21.

According to Garcia, the installation of American air bases in Colombia was also discussed during the meeting. "We passed on the government's position, that the bases are not a positive factor for the region. The U.S. government needs to have a more direct dialogue with the countries of the region to eliminate even the war of information."

Both sides also discussed efforts by Brazil and the US to ease problems in the Middle East, particularly the question of Palestine and Iran. "Palestine," said Garcia,  "is an issue that has very large negative irradiation on the whole of humanity, affecting scenarios in a dangerous way.

On Iran, Garcia said the two governments agree on the need for the country to submit to the standards of the International Nuclear Energy Agency, aiming at the peaceful use of such energy.

Garcia denied again that relations with the U.S. were affected. "They were already good in the Bush administration and had an upgrade with Obama. It is normal that the governments have different assessments," he said, referring to warnings by the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to Latin American countries that seek closer relations with Iran.

Valenzuela, said that the United States will continue to "encourage countries to pressure Iran" to comply with its obligations to the United Nations (UN) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The American envoy added what Washington hopes from the closer ties between Brazil and Tehran, consolidated by the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Brazil on November 23:

"We welcome the interest of Brazil to make Iran comply with its obligations," he said after stating that there was a "misunderstanding" in the interpretation of recent statements by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, on the approaches by Latin American countries to Tehran.

"Brazil is a sovereign state and has the right to have relations with any country it wishes," he concluded.

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