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Clinton to Urge 'Constructive' Brazilian Approach to Iran

The U.S. State Department says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will urge Brazilian leaders next week to use their influence with Iran to prod Tehran toward cooperation with the world community on its nuclear program. Clinton leaves Washington for Uruguay late Sunday on a 5-nation Latin American trip.

Clinton is putting heavy emphasis on her talks with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Iran next week, and she sent the administration's point-man on Iran - Under-Secretary of State William Burns - to Brasilia for preliminary discussions Friday.

The Obama administration is engaged in a diplomatic push for new U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran because of its rejection of proposals that would ease concerns about the direction of its nuclear program.

Brazil is a current member of the Security Council and has close relations with Tehran, with President Lula hosting a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last November and planning a visit to Iran in May.

Briefing reporters, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela said Clinton will urge Brazil to take a "constructive" approach with Tehran, and encourage the Iranians to regain the trust of the world community on the nuclear issue.

"What we want to try to tell the Brazilians is yes, if you have engagement with Iran, we really want to encourage you and urge you to in fact use that engagement in way that you can push the Iranians to meet their fundamental international obligations. If you don't do that, then we will be disappointed," Valenzuela.

Clinton will attend Monday's inauguration in Montevideo of Uruguayan President-elect Jose Mujica and then visit Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica and Guatemala on what will be her most extensive Latin American trip since taking office.

Argentine officials have been critical of the fact that Clinton will not visit Buenos Aires on the trip. But Valenzuela said the Secretary plans a bilateral meeting in the Uruguayan capital with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

The Argentine leader, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, this week said they were disappointed with the Obama administration's level of engagement with Latin America and handling of regional issues.

Valenzuela conceded that last year's Honduras coup and the recent Haitian earthquake were unexpected pre-occupations for the administration, and that Clinton welcomes the chance to meet Ms. Kirchner despite her critical remarks.

"When have meetings, we also have meetings with people with whom we might disagree. In fact, one of the reasons why it's important to schedule a meeting like this, and we offered this meeting, was precisely so we could have an exchange of views on some of these issues," said Valenzuela.

U.S. officials say Clinton plans no separate meeting with the Venezuelan president, who will be among regional leaders at the Mujica inauguration, but would interact with the strident critic of U.S. policy if they happened to meet in Montevideo.