Top Brazilian officials told U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Tuesday that country has nothing to hide on its nuclear program, despite a conflict over access by U.N. inspectors to its uranium-enrichment plant. Mr. Powell for his part said he is convinced Brazil's program is entirely peaceful.
Policy analysts have described Brazil's argument with the International Atomic Energy Agency as at the very least inopportune, coming as the international community is trying to pressure Iran to be more forthcoming on its nuclear program.
But after talks between Mr. Powell and top Brazilian officials including President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, both sides forecast an early resolution of the issue that will allow the enrichment plant at Resende to continue fuel production for Brazil's civilian nuclear program.
Brazil has refused to give IAEA inspectors full access to the plant, citing a need to protect industrial secrets.
At a joint news conference with Mr. Powell capping the secretary's visit here, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim declared that his government is neither concealing anything, nor diverting nuclear materials.
He said there have been productive talks on the issue with the IAEA, which is sending a team of experts to Brazil later this month.
"I won't go into the technical details because I have no expertise to do that," he said. "But it's a simple matter: Brazil has nothing to hide in terms of its uranium enrichment process except for the technology that Brazil has acquired, and which Brazil naturally wishes to protect. It's perfectly possible, and this has been discussed very productively in Vienna. I myself was on the telephone with the director of the Atomic Energy Agency, Mr. ElBaradei, who was very pleased with the contacts that he had made with our technical people."
Mr. Powell for his part has insisted here that there is no concern within the U.S. government about nuclear activities by Brazil, whose constitution forbids seeking nuclear weapons.
He told reporters there can be no comparison between the nuclear activities of Brazil and those of Iran, whose nuclear program he said is not just for electric power but also designed to "move in the direction of a nuclear weapon."
"I reaffirmed to the president and to the minister that the United States has absolutely no concerns about Brazil doing anything with its nuclear program except developing power in the most controlled, responsible manner," he said. "And of course that is a requirement of the Brazilian constitution. And I'm confident that Brazil will be able to work out any problems that might exist with the IAEA, hopefully when the IAEA, team visits later in the month."
At the news conference, Foreign Minister Amorim expressed appreciation for Mr. Powell's statements of support for Brazil's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, though acknowledging that the comments fall short of a formal U.S. endorsement of the effort.
The talks here also covered Brazilian efforts to help foster political peace in Venezuela and its new role as head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti.
That force is still well short of the 6,500 troops authorized by the U.N. and Mr. Amorim urged countries around the world to make good on pledges of soldiers and material support for the Haitian peace effort, which has been greatly complicated by devastating hurricane-related flooding last month.
Mr. Powell will conclude his foreign trip Wednesday with a stop in Grenada, an island state in the southern Caribbean where most structures were destroyed or damaged, and thousands of people left homeless, a month ago by Hurricane Ivan.