SAO PAULO , Brazil – Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday he is confident Brazil has no intention of becoming a nuclear power, but he called on the country to work out differences with the U.N. atomic watchdog agency over inspections.
"We know for sure that Brazil is not thinking about nuclear weapons in any sense," Powell told a breakfast meeting sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce (search) at the start of a two-day visit — his first to the country as secretary of state.
Powell arrived less than two weeks ahead of a visit by a team of International Atomic Energy Agency (search) inspectors to Brazil.
The IAEA wants unimpeded access to a factory that produces nuclear fuel. Brazil has indicated that it wants less-stringent standards than the IAEA is seeking.
Brazil claims that centrifuges at its plant in Resende (search), about 60 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro, use advanced technology that could be stolen by other countries if the inspectors are allowed to view it.
But analysts doubt Brazil has developed technology that is radically different from what is used at other uranium enrichment plants and point out that technological advances are traditionally protected with patents.
"The IAEA has worked out these kinds of differences in the past; I expect they will work it out this time with Brazil," Powell had reporters while en route Monday night.
"It's a question of how much visibility they get in certain technical aspects of their facilities but that's something to be worked out," he said. "I hope they find a solution."
At the breakfast meeting, Powell reassured his audience that "I don't think it is that much of an issue in Brazilian-U.S. relations."
"Brazil is not a potential proliferator. But there does seem to be some outstanding issues between Brazil and the IAEA with respect to the Resende facility. For us, it is a matter between Brazil and the IAEA," he said.
Last month, Brazil said it was near an agreement that would allow the IAEA to inspect its uranium enrichment facilities without granting inspectors full access.
Powell earlier praised the cooperative efforts Brazil is making internationally in a number of areas. He offered no hint of concern about Brazil's move to the left under President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (search).
Silva has been seeking greater power and influence for Brazil on the world stage but he is no longer using the harsh rhetoric of two years ago when he was a candidate for the presidency.
Powell spoke kindly of Latin America's largest and most populous country Monday night, praising the "tremendous work" of Brazilian peacekeepers in Haiti who are trying to help bring stability to the country as it moves toward the election of a new president.
Powell also said Brazil was helpful in bringing about a peaceful outcome to political tensions in Venezuela.
Brazilian officials were expected to tell Powell of their interest in obtaining a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Powell said Washington recognized Brazil's bid to join the Security Council and was awaiting a panel report on possible expansion.
"As we look at that expansion, certainly Brazil would have to be seen as an important candidate for membership," he said.
Powell plans a stop to hurricane-ravaged Grenada while en route home on Wednesday.
Just hours before Powell was due to arrive, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said, speaking of Brazil's ties with the United States, "We have maintained a constructive relationship based on constant dialogue over a wide range of issues."
He said negotiations for a hemisphere-wide free trade agreement would resume after the U.S. elections and should be faster, more productive and efficient thanks to the experience obtained in trade negotiations with the European Union (search) and at the World Trade Organization (search).
Brazil recently won a pair of trade victories against farm subsidies provided by rich countries after the World Trade Organization agreed that government assistance for U.S. cotton farmers and European Union sugar beet growers has harmed Brazilian farmers.