I’m Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
Heads of state and other officials from thirty-four nations met this week for the first-ever Summit of South American and Arab Countries. The officials attended the two-day conference in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. They represented countries with a population of more than six hundred million people.
The goal of the conference was to improve economic relations between South America and the Middle East. But politics also played a big part in the meeting. South American officials mostly discussed ways to increase trade with Arab nations. Arab officials discussed American and Israeli policies in the Middle East.
The representatives to the conference announced a final declaration on Wednesday. The Brasilia Declaration calls for closer cooperation between South American and Arab nations on their common goals for economic and social development. The officials said developing nations should resist the power of rich nations and should trade among themselves.
The declaration supports a separate state for the Palestinians that would exist peacefully next to Israel. It said Israel should withdraw from all territories it has occupied since nineteen sixty-seven, including settlements in East Jerusalem. Israeli groups criticized the statement.
Representatives also supported the new Iraqi government. Its leader, Jalal Talabani, attended the meeting. The declaration honored the unity, self-government and independence of Iraq.
The conference condemned terrorism and called for a world meeting to define terrorism. The officials called for a ban on nuclear arms and chemical and biological weapons.
The statement declared the rights of people to resist foreign occupation. Israel expressed concern about the statement. It said this could mean support for militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. The declaration also criticized the United States for restrictions against Syria. A United States request to send an observer to the conference had been rejected.
The officials wanted the next head of the World Trade Organization to be from a developing nation. They supported economist Carlos Perez del Castillo of Uruguay. However, on Friday, he withdrew his candidacy. So former European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy of France became head of the WTO.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva urged developing countries to work for freer trade rules. He said more liberal rules would aid struggling nations instead of helping only rich countries and international companies.
South American and Arab nations exchanged about ten thousand million dollars of goods last year. Brazil and the Arab countries were responsible for about eight thousand million dollars of that trade.
Brazilian officials said they would like to increase the amount to fifteen thousand million dollars in three years.
IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English, was written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Steve Ember.