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US lawmakers blast Brazil's Palestinian move

Dec. 4, 2010 9:18 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 4, 2010 10:20 P.M.)
WASHINGTON (AFP) -- US lawmakers condemned Brazil's "severely misguided" and "regrettable" decision Friday to recognize a Palestinian state on borders pre-dating Israel's seizure of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967.

Brazil's decision "is regrettable and will only serve to undermine peace and security in the Middle East," charged Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Ros-Lehtinen, set to chair the panel come January, said "responsible nations" would wait to take such a step until Palestinians return to direct talks with Israel and recognize its "right to exist as a Jewish state."

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced the decision Friday in a public letter addressed to Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and published on the website of Brazil's foreign ministry.

The international community backs Palestinian demands for a state in most of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and east Jerusalem, all territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.

But the United States and most Western governments have held back from recognizing a Palestinian state, saying it should be brought about through a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.

Brazil's decision also drew fire from Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, who said it "is severely misguided and represents a last gasp by a Lula-led foreign policy which was already substantially off track."

Engel tied the move to Lula's "coddling" of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and warned that Brazil "wants to establish itself as a voice in the world, but is making the wrong choices as it tries to do so."

"One can only hope that the new leadership coming into Brazil will change course and understand that this is not the way to gain favor as an emerging power or to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council."

Lula will be stepping down in four weeks' time and handing power over to Dilma Roussef, his protegee and former cabinet chief.

"Brazil is sending a message to the Palestinians that they need not make peace to gain recognition as a sovereign state," said Engel, a co-chair of the US Congress's Brazil Caucus.

The lawmaker added he remained "a strong supporter of Brazil as a dynamic, diverse democracy which will one day take its place alongside the world's leading nations."
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