Secretary of State Colin Powell, on his first visit to Brazil, says that country is a "solid candidate for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council under anticipated U.N. reforms. Mr. Powell is holding talks in Brasilia with senior Brazilian officials including President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva.
The United States is not endorsing any Security Council candidates, at least until a reform panel appointed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan submits its recommendations later this year.
But Mr. Powell is speaking favorably of the declared candidacy of Brazil, which has been active in regional peace-making in Haiti and Venezuela and is increasingly seen as a global economic power.
Addressing a Brazilian-American business group in Brazil's financial hub, Sao Paulo, the Secretary said Brazil would appear to meet important criteria for a permanent seat on the council:
"Brazil would have to be seen as an important candidate for such membership," he said. "A large, non-nuclear democracy, solidly grounded, playing a responsible role on the world stage, willing to send troops to other parts of the world, [including] the hemisphere in peacekeeping efforts. It is playing a very responsible role in discussions on the world stage. And I would certainly think Brazil would be a solid candidate."
Pressure has been building for change in the structure of the United Nations, where veto-wielding permanent membership on the Security Council has been limited since the founding of the world body to the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China.
Brazil, the largest and most populous Latin American nation, has been openly campaigning for a seat, and recently joined in an informal alliance with three other leading candidate countries, India, Japan, and Germany.
Despite seeming ideological differences, the Bush administration and the leftist Brazilian government of President Lula have had increasingly warm relations.
The United States has praised Brazil for assuming command of U.N. peacekeeping forces in Haiti, and for its leadership of the informal "Friends of Venezuela" grouping which helped defuse the political crisis in that country over the rule of President Hugo Chavez.
The two countries have had disagreements, with President Lula, a former trade union leader, opposing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and criticizing American agricultural trade barriers including a stiff tariff on sugar, a major Brazilian export.
In his Sao Paulo appearance, Mr. Powell said he thinks major trade issues can be resolved and envisaged completion of a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, though probably not by the 2005 target date.
Mr. Powell also said the United States is not worried about Brazil's dispute with the International Atomic Energy Agency over access by U.N. inspectors to its uranium-enrichment facility at Resende near Rio de Janiero.
Press accounts have cited U.S. concerns about Brazil's intentions, and the effect the dispute might have on getting other countries, including Iran, to open their nuclear facilities to inspections. But in his Sao Paulo remarks, the secretary said the issue is not even on the U.S-Brazilian agenda.
"Brazil has a nuclear power industry. It is quite appropriate," he said. "We would like to be doing more with nuclear power in the United States. It is a good source of power. But proliferation concerns or nuclear weapons concerns with respect to Brazil are not in any American briefing book, or of concern to me, or any of my colleagues in Washington."
Brazilian officials have stressed they have no interest in nuclear weapons, but say they want to protect proprietary information with regard to their enrichment techniques for reactor fuel.
Mr. Powell said an IAEA team is coming to Brazil later this month and that he is confident the access question will be resolved.