Brazil Official Calls Israeli FM 'Fascist'

Israel's foreign minister ran into controversy on the first day of a Latin American trip Tuesday when an official of Brazil's ruling party reportedly called him a "fascist."

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that Valter Pomar, secretary
of international relations for the Workers Party, said that Avigdor
"Lieberman is a racist and a fascist" during an interview.

Haaretz reported that Pomar also said that "the Brazilian left
is organizing protests" against Lieberman "and against the policy
he represents."

The left-leaning Workers Party has long been sharply critical of
Israel's policies toward Palestinians, and Lieberman has advocated
a tough line on Israel's Arab minority.

He has suggested redrawing Israel's borders to push areas with
heavy concentrations of its Arab citizens outside the country and
under Palestinian jurisdiction, while requiring those who remain to
sign an oath of loyalty to the Jewish state. Some 20 percent of
Israel's 7 million citizens are Arabs.

Lieberman's 10-day trip is meant to battle growing Iranian
influence in the region and to push trade. He is expected to meet
with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - a founder of
the Workers Party - on Wednesday.

Pomar was traveling and unavailable for comment, a party
spokeswoman said. She declined to comment on the Haaretz report.

A spokeswoman for Silva said Pomar's words "were just his own
opinion and have nothing to do with the government. In fact, they
were quite rude." She spoke on condition of anonymity, citing
department rules.

Iran's ambassador to Brazil, Moshen Shaterzadeh, said Monday
that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will also visit Brazil.
He didn't give a date.

Lieberman was meeting with an industry group, leaders of the
local Jewish community and the governor of Sao Paulo state on
Tuesday.

He also has planned stops in Argentina, Peru and Colombia, but
is bypassing the South American nations most closely allied with
Iran - Venezuela and Bolivia.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo
Morales are strong supporters of Ahmadinejad and have solidified
links with Tehran through trade deals.

Both countries broke off ties with Israel in January to protest
a military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Dorit Shavit, a top Israeli diplomat for Latin America, told the
Colombian newspaper El Tiempo that Hezbollah cells are operating on
Venezuela's Margarita Island and along the Venezuelan-Colombian
border.

"There are many mosques that serve not only as places of
worship, but also to collect money that's sent to the Middle
East," she was quoted as saying in an interview published Sunday.

President Hugo Chavez complained Tuesday that the allegations -
combined with a recent U.S. congressional report criticizing
Venezuela's anti-drug efforts, and Colombia's decision to allow the
U.S. to expand its military presence in that country - constitute
"aggression."

"It's an attack formation against Venezuela," Chavez said
Tuesday.


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