WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) on Wednesday sought to ease tensions with Brazil (search) over new U.S. regulations that require people to be fingerprinted and photographed upon entering the United States.
"We have to protect ourselves," Powell said at a news conference. "American people expect that. International travelers expect that."
At the same time, Powell said, "We want to convey an attitude that this is still a welcoming open country."
In Brazil, Foreign Minister Celso Amorim (search) requested that Brazilians be exempted from the rules. Amorim told U.S. Ambassador Donna Hrinak on Tuesday that Brazilians should be treated like the citizens from 27 countries who do not need visas to enter the United States and who are exempted from the new rules.
"Amorim underscored the main concerns of the Brazilian government regarding this theme, which are the maintenance of high level relations between Brazil and the United States and above all the necessity that Brazilians be treated with dignity upon entering that country," the foreign ministry said in statement.
Powell did not offer Brazil an exemption and said he hoped the regulations would not affect U.S. relations with other countries.
"What we are asking is not terribly unreasonable," he said. "And we hope to make it easier" by allowing the fingerprints and photo to be taken while someone applies for a visa.
The rules went into effect Monday at all 115 airports handling international flights and 14 major seaports in the United States. The system allows instant checks on an immigrant's or visitor's criminal background.
In response, a Brazilian federal judge ordered that all U.S. citizens be fingerprinted and photographed upon entering Brazil, citing the principal of reciprocity. The judge's order, which took effect Jan. 1, forced many American citizens to wait for hours at Brazilian airports.
The city of Rio de Janeiro has appealed the judge's order, saying it would ruin the tourism industry.
In Brazil's case, Powell said, a judge singled out Americans. "I'll be talking to my Brazilian counterparts about it," the secretary said.
Powell made the telephone call a few hours later. No details were provided by his office.