The New York Times
October 6, 2004

Warming to Brazil, Powell Says Its Nuclear Program Isn't a Concern

BRASÍLIA, Oct. 5 - Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, stepping up the American courtship of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said Tuesday that the United States had no concerns that Brazil was planning to develop nuclear weapons despite the country's resistance to allowing international inspectors greater access to one of its nuclear reactors.

After meeting with President da Silva and other Brazilian leaders, Mr. Powell also offered another gesture to Brazilian aspirations, saying that Brazil's contributions to peacekeeping in Haiti and other actions made it was worthy of consideration for permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council.

The United Nations is studying the possibility of increasing the number of permanent seats in response to demands for membership from several countries, including India, Brazil, Germany and Japan. At present, only the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia are permanent members, which carries the right to veto any resolution.

Mr. Powell was noncommittal as to whether the United States would endorse Brazil's addition, saying that Washington was awaiting results of a study by a panel appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan. But he did say that Brazil would be a strong candidate.

On the nuclear issue, Mr. Powell addressed a question about concerns in many countries that Brazil's opposition to unlimited inspections, as sought by the International Atomic Energy Agency, might embolden other nations like Iran and North Korea to reject inspections of their suspected nuclear arms programs.

"I don't have those concerns," Mr. Powell said at a news conference after meeting with Foreign Minister Celso Amorim. "I don't think Brazil can be talked about in the same vein or put in the same category as Iran or North Korea."

He said that Iran and North Korea, for example, had either expelled international inspectors or refused to cooperate with them in disclosing nuclear facilities, and that many experts agreed that those countries were making nuclear weapons. North Korea, he noted, has announced its nuclear arms program as a matter of policy.

"The United States understands that Brazil has no interest in a nuclear weapon, no desire and no plans, no programs, no intention of moving toward a nuclear weapon," Mr. Powell said in an interview on TV Globo. "They have a nuclear power program. We understand that."

In a speech to business leaders, talks with President da Silva and in interviews with local news media, Mr. Powell used his day-and-a-half visit to push the idea that Brazil was emerging as a dominant power in the region and one that the United States - perhaps to its surprise - could do business with on a number of fronts.

Since his election in 2002 as the first president from the leftist Workers Party, Mr. da Silva has been cultivated by the Bush administration in the hope that he would soften his economic policies and serve as a moderating influence in Latin America, despite his alliance with such leftist leaders as Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

American officials say that strategy has worked, and that under Mr. da Silva Brazil has hewed to a pro-capitalist, pro-investment and fiscally conservative line. This year, Mr. da Silva sent Brazilian forces as peacekeepers to Haiti under the aegis of the United Nations to keep order after the forced resignation of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Foreign Minister Amorim said that he expected the dispute with the International Atomic Energy Agency over inspectors' access to Brazil's enriched-uranium facilities would be resolved soon by technical experts.