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Environmentalists Protest Blair Visit to Brazil - 2001-07-31

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is winding up his visit to Brazil - the first-ever by a British leader to Latin America's largest nation. His visit was slightly marred Tuesday when environmental activists staged a brief protest against the British prime minister.

Activists from the environmental group Greenpeace waved placards and unfurled a banner calling for a halt in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest when Mr. Blair arrived at a botanical garden in the southern city of Sao Paulo.

Security agents quickly broke up the small demonstration, and Mr. Blair went on to tour the garden accompanied by the governor of Sao Paulo state. Greenpeace activist Paulo Adario said his group staged the protest because Britain buys Amazon wood products from logging companies that do not comply with environmental regulations. "We want Britain to stop buying wood cut down illegally in the Amazon and other developing countries," he said. Tuesday's incident took place on the second day of Mr. Blair's visit to Brazil - the first ever by a British prime minister. Mr. Blair met Monday with Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and later at a news conference urged the world's industrial nations to open up their markets to farm goods from developing countries.

He also said that possible new world trade talks later this year should help persuade both poor and rich nations of the benefits of free trade. If the talks are successful, Mr. Blair said the world would benefit from an additional $400 billion in trade, much of it involving developing nations.

Also Monday, the British leader called for closer commercial ties between Britain and Brazil.

Mr. Blair winds up his visit to Brazil Wednesday, when he crosses the border to visit neighboring Argentina, Britain's former foe in the 1982 Falklands War. He travels later in the week to Mexico, where he wraps up his tour of Latin America and the Caribbean.