|Heads of state and delegates pose for the official photo of the South American and Arab countries summit in Brasilia|
South American and Arab leaders got down to business at a summit in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, Tuesday working to improve economic ties between the two regions. The meetings also took on a decidedly political tone as well.
Representatives from 34 nations began the first day of the two-day summit looking for ways to add to the $10 billion in bilateral trade the two regions exchanged last year.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is the architect of the meeting among the regions' leaders, said South American and the Arab world face a great challenge.
Mr. da Silva said it is your great challenge to design a new international, economic and commercial map. We depend on democratic international organizations like those here to be a voice for developing countries, he added.
Among South American countries, Brazil does the most business with Arab nations.
Last year, Brazil and Arab countries exchanged more than $8 billion in bilateral trade. Brazilian economic officials said they would like to see that number increase to $15 billion in three years.
Tuesday's meetings also took on a decidedly political tone as well. Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji al Otri, told summit participants the fight against terrorism is one of the greatest challenges the world faces today. Mr. al Otri also accused the United Nations of deepening tensions among nations and calls for U.N. reform.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Israeli officials have expressed concern that the summit could serve as a platform to launch attacks on both nations' policies in the Middle East. A U.S. request to send an observer to the summit was denied.
A summit declaration is expected to be released at the conclusion of the summit Wednesday.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said that the language of the declaration is acceptable to Brazil and other South American countries, but he declined to give details.