Lula refuses to visit grave of founder of Zionism
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has refused to visit the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism.
In response to the rebuff, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided to boycott the Brazilian president's visit.
On Monday, Lieberman also criticized Lula's close ties with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his plan to visit Tehran in the near future.
Lula described his Middle East tour, which includes scheduled visits to the occupied West Bank and Jordan, as "a mission of peace."
“We are very proud that we can say Latin America and the Caribbean have no nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction… We would like to serve as an example for other regions of the world,” he added.
In a speech to the Israeli parliament on Monday, Lula said efforts should be made to turn the Middle East into a nuclear weapons-free zone.
The Brazilian president also spoke of his vision for peace between Israel and its neighbors.
Earlier, in a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres and other officials in Jerusalem al-Quds, Lula said, "Mr. President Peres, I dream of the day when the Middle East will have peace so that all peoples can achieve prosperity."
Brazil has been trying to take a higher profile in the international arena over the past few years.
Along these lines, Brazilian officials believe that the country can play the role of an impartial mediator for conflicts in the Middle East.
However, Brazil's solidarity and growing ties with Iran and its support for Iran's civilian nuclear program have angered Israeli officials.
In addition, Lula has rebuked countries with nuclear arsenals that are trying to police other nations that are only seeking to produce energy through peaceful nuclear programs.