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Israel Seeks to Block Iran Relations in South America
07-22-2009, 01:14 AM,
#1
Israel Seeks to Block Iran Relations in South America
Israel Seeks to Block Iran Relations in South America
Posted: 2009/07/21
From: AP

Zionist FM Avigdor Lieberman tells Latin American nations who not to be friends with


By MATTI FRIEDMAN
Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Israel's foreign minister is heading to South America on a mission partly aimed at stemming Iranian "infiltration" on the continent, a senior diplomat said Monday.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's 10-day visit to Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Colombia comes at a time of rising Iranian influence in Latin America.

Venezuela and Bolivia have close ties to Iran, and Israeli and U.S. officials have expressed concern about Islamic militant activities, some of them connected to Iran, in the lawless region where the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet.

The visit is meant to "emphasize the high importance the Foreign Ministry ascribes to Latin America," a statement from the ministry said.

Iran underscored its interest in the region on Monday when the country's ambassador to Brazil, Moshen Shaterzadeh, announced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Brazil on his first foreign trip since winning election. He did not give a date.

Lieberman was set to leave late Monday. During his trip, Lieberman will tackle the Iranian issue with South American leaders, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said, and chiefly the activities of the Iranian-backed Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.

"Israel, along with many others, is concerned about Iran's infiltration into Latin America, primarily through Hezbollah, and this will definitely be an issue discussed between the Israeli foreign minister and his counterparts," Ayalon said.

In Argentina, Lieberman is slated to attend a memorial marking the 15th anniversary of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured 200. That attack came two years after a bomb flattened the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and killed 29 people.

Argentine officials claim Iran orchestrated the attack and that Hezbollah agents carried it out. The United States and Israel also say Iran is behind the bombing. Iran has denied involvement.

In May, a secret Israeli Foreign Ministry report obtained by The Associated Press said Iran's nuclear program was being aided by Venezuela and Bolivia. The report accused the nations of supplying Iran with uranium. Both South American countries dismissed the allegation.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales are strong supporters of Ahmadinejad and have solidified links with Tehran through trade deals and political support. Both Venezuela and Bolivia broke off ties with Israel in January to protest a military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Also worrying for Israeli and U.S. officials is the "triple border" area adjacent to Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The U.S. State Department said in its latest global terrorism report that lax controls in the region give Islamic extremists, and Hezbollah in particular, a safe haven and an area to raise money for their operations.

The South American nations deny there is a problem with terrorism in the area.

The State Department terrorism report released in April acknowledged that no "corroborated information shows that Hezbollah, Hamas, or other Islamic extremist groups used the Tri-Border Area for military-type training or planning of terrorist operations."

But the report said the U.S. "remained concerned" Islamic terrorist groups still take advantage of the porous borders to raise funds for terror groups.

In 2006, the U.S. Treasury blacklisted and blocked the assets of nine men and two businesses operating primarily out of the triple frontier crossroads city and main smuggling point of Ciudad del Este, alleging they provided "financial and logistical support" to Hezbollah.

-----

Associated Press Writer Bradley Brooks in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.
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07-22-2009, 03:57 AM,
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Israel Seeks to Block Iran Relations in South America
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