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Does Lula Want To Be UN Secretary-General?

Last week, I wrote on Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's visit to Iran. It seemed clear that the two-day visit, which began on May 16, was about more than the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

Jaime Daremblum at the Washington-based Hudson Institute suggests the visit reflects Brazil's own ambitions at the United Nations. "You ought to remember that Lula is about to finish up his presidency this year," Daremblum said. "And Lula has ambition, first of all for Brazil [to have] a greater role in the UN, even having a permanent seat [on] the Security Council.

Clovis Rossi of "Folha de Sao Paulo" also suggested that Brazil's mediation with Iran could be linked to the Security Council bid. Rossi told RFE/RL that such an effort for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council has been a "permanent feature of Brazilian diplomacy."

Yet Daremblum argues that Lula has more in mind than his country's UN aspirations.

"Lula, according to some press reports, also has ambitions to become the secretary-general of the UN. And he has made himself available, or he has nurtured, the type of activities that bring media [attention] and allow him to present himself internationally as a good mediator," Daremblum said.

However, Matias Spektor of Rio de Janeiro's Getulio Vargas Foundation disagrees about Lula's ambitions.

"There is no explicit or implicit interest on the part of President Lula to become secretary-general of the United Nations mostly because that position is not available," Spektor said. "And it will not be available in the near future. When the current Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon leaves, the position will not go to a Latin American, so to believe that Lula is being driven by that I think is utterly misplaced."

Spektor also disagreed with Daremblum and Rossi that Brazil's mediation with Iran is part of a bid for Security Council permanent membership.

"It's equally misplaced to believe that by opening up to Tehran what Lula is seeking to do is to create momentum for the reform of the Security Council," Daremblum argued. "As you know reforming the Security Council is an incredibly difficult operation that requires massive support in the General Assembly and the agreement of the five permanent veto players inside the Security Council itself."

Spektor said Brazil hopes to be "one of the pillars of global order in the 21st Century." With his presidential diplomacy, Lula is trying to "portray Brazil as a pillar that will derive its own authority and legitimacy, not from the use of force, but through the use of diplomacy. And that in turn might help feed the argument that, if the Security Council is reformed some day, then Brazil needs to be there."

-- Michael Hirshman

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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