Representatives from Brazil and Iran met this week and agreed to enhance relations between the two countries, a signal that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will follow the example of her predecessor and demonstrate Brazil's diplomatic independence by dealing with a nation under scrutiny for its nuclear program.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani and his Brazilian counterpart, Maria Edileuza Fontenele, met Tuesday, Iran's state-run Press TV reported.
The deputies called for "the speedy implementation of agreements" reached by the two countries in the past. Such cooperation includes areas such as agriculture, biofuels and technology.
Fontenele described Iran as one of "the most important partners of Brazil" and an "influential" country in the world, Press TV reported.
Such praise for Iran is likely to make observers in the United States and other countries cringe, as Tehran is under recent sanctions for its alleged nuclear weapons program. But Brazil, an emerging economic and political power, appears intent to try to make room for itself at the table of diplomatic powers by inserting itself in some of the world's most challenging conflicts. Iran is one of them.
Last year, Brazil -- which at the time held a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council -- voted against sanctions for Iran, instead touting its own negotiations, along with Turkey, to resolve the standoff.
Brazil and Turkey worked out a nuclear swap deal with Iran, where Turkey would act as an intermediary for Iran to get highly enriched uranium from abroad. But the deal didn't gain traction and was overshadowed by U.S. and other sanctions.
Also last year, Brazil formally offered asylum to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. It's not clear if that offer has been accepted by Iranian authorities.
Those examples of diplomatic outreach to Iran came under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who maintained good ties with the United States, but was not afraid to have Brazil take opposing stands on some issues.
Rousseff, as Lula's hand-picked successor, appears to continue that tradition.
Ahani this week said Brazil and Iran have "friendly and good relations" and that his government was eager to expand ties. Iran has also expanded cooperation with Venezuela and Cuba, Press TV reported.
Brazil is the largest trading partner of Iran among Latin American countries, according to the International Monetary Fund, Press TV reported.
According to Iranian state radio, bilateral trade with Brazil had quadrupled from $500 million in 2005 to $2 billion in 2009. Trade is forecast to increase to $10 billion in the next five years, Press TV reported.