lula - AP - December 3 2010
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, December 3, 2010. Photo by AP
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Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday demanded the end of what he called U.S. "guardianship" of the Middle East.

"There will not be peace in the Middle East as long as the United States is the guardian of peace. It is necessary to involve other countries in negotiations (between Israel and the Palestinians)," he said.

Brazil has long volunteered to play such a role. Earlier this month it recognized Palestine as a sovereign, independent state within its borders prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.

Lula also slammed economic sanctions imposed on Iran over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme, and emphasized that they could have been avoided if the United States had accepted a deal brokered with Iran by Brazil and Turkey.

Iran says its uranium-enrichment program is purely meant for energy generation, but much of the West fears it is designed to build a nuclear bomb. The United Nations Security Council has hit Iran with several rounds of sanctions over the issue.

Turkey and Brazil have not only supported Iran's right to pursue peaceful nuclear projects, but also were the only two countries that voted against the latest Security Council resolution on Iranian sanctions.

Lula recalled that before he travelled to Iran in May he got a letter from President Barack Obama with US "conditions" so that Tehran could avoid sanctions. Lula said these conditions were accepted by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, so sanctions were not in order.

"The conditions that Ahmadinejad accepted were exactly the same as those proposed by Obama. In spite of that, countries on the UN Security Council decided to punish Iran. It was necessary to punish Iran because Brazil and Turkey got into ground that was not apt for emerging countries but was only reserved for the Security Council," Lula said.

Still, he was sure Brazil had acted appropriately. "Brazil does not have to ask permission to do what it thinks must be done," he said.