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South American, Arab leaders end summit
Updated: 2005-05-13 08:46

Joining two far-flung regions in a single political voice, leaders from 12 South American and 22 Arab nations ended their first summit by endorsing a declaration urging Israel to abandon Palestinian territory and insisting free trade must be harnessed to benefit the world's poor.

Wearing business suits and flowing Arab robes, the leaders and high officials approved a "Declaration of Brasilia" with a commitment for the nations in the regions — which historically haven't had much to do with each other — to work toward closer political and economic ties.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (R) and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani attend the opening ceremony of the Summit of South American and Arab Countries in Brasilia May 10, 2005.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (R) and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani attend the opening ceremony of the Summit of South American and Arab Countries in Brasilia May 10, 2005.[Reuters]
They also staked out positions at odds with U.S. policy on several fronts. The declaration denounces U.S. economic sanctions against Syria, says global rules of commerce are hurting the poor and suggests intellectual property rights don't always apply in poor countries.

"For me, this meeting marks the beginning of a new historic moment in our relations," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in closing remarks after the two-day summit. "The relationship between South America and the Arab countries will never be the same again."

The leaders rejected terrorism "in all its forms and manifestations." But they also called for an international forum to define terrorism, saying the current definition has been set by wealthy countries.

Brazilian Army soldiers guard in front of Brasilia's Convention Centre. Arab and South American leaders were ending a summit and were expected to approve a final declaration on supporting the Palestinian movement and criticising US sanctions against Syria.(AFP/File
Brazilian Army soldiers guard in front of Brasilia's Convention Centre. [AFP/File]
The summit in Brazil's capital brought together leaders as diverse as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a self-professed revolutionary and U.S. critic, and American-backed Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Still, some of the strongest voices in the Arab world, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, were absent from the summit.

Participants mostly brushed aside differences and said their meeting was a first step toward getting more clout on the international stage. They decided to hold another summit in Morocco in 2008.

"Each and every era has its different landmarks," said Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa. "In this new century, a new movement has been launched."

Silva said the goal of the new alliance is to change a world order "where the rich keep getting richer, (and) the poor keep getting poorer."

Addressing that point, the summit document said trade liberalization talks promoted by developed nations like the United States could benefit the global economy, but current rules of international commerce "widen the gap between developed and developing countries."

Moussa compared the meeting of Arab and South American nations to the Non-Aligned Movement founded in 1955, which banded together countries from Africa, Latin America and Asia in rejection of the two superpowers of that era — the Soviet Union and the United States.

While the leaders committed to protecting the key U.S. issue of intellectual property, the declaration said such protection "should not prevent developing countries from access to basic science and technology, and from taking steps to promote national development, particularly concerning public health policies."

Brazil has repeatedly threatened to break patents on AIDS drugs produced by big pharmaceutical companies in a bid to win lower prices for its internationally recognized AIDS treatment program.

The declaration also demands that Israel disband settlements and retreat to its borders before the 1967 Mideast war.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called on South American nations to exert pressure on Israel to honor its peace commitments, saying that the Palestinians have honored theirs.

The document denounces terrorism but asserts the right of people "to resist foreign occupation in accordance with the principles of international legality and in compliance with international humanitarian law."

The clause — a clear reference to the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah — drew condemnation from Jewish groups.

It encourages "every insurgent in Iraq, every al-Qaida operative and every Hamas terrorist," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group.

The declaration does support international efforts for Mideast peace, including the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan. On Iraq, it stresses respect for the "unity, sovereignty and independence of Iraq and of not interfering in its internal affairs."

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher declined comment on the declaration because American officials had not seen the final version.

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