A summit between South American and Arab leaders in Brazil next week is intended to boost trade and investment but has already prompted U.S. and Israeli concern it will become a platform to attack their Middle East policies.
The gathering of leaders from 11 South American countries and 22 Arab states is billed as a means to reduce dependence on the U.S. and Europe.
Arab nations have pushed issues like terrorism, Iraq, and the Palestinians onto the agenda, according to diplomatic sources. Much of the continent has strong Arab immigrant ties, with 10 million Brazilians today claiming Arab ancestry in a country of 180 million people.
Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, and Honduras also have strong Arab populations that have produced leaders like Argentina’s former president, Carlos Menem, and Ecuador’s ex-president, Abdala Bucaram.
South America is on Washington’s terrorism radar for a triple border area between Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil where the Arab community is accused of sending funds to Hizballah.