Protests precede Ahmadinejad's visit to Brazil

Protests precede Ahmadinejad's visit to Brazil Brasilia  - Several hundred people on Sunday protested the upcoming visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, taking him to task for his denial of the Holocaust.

The protests, which took place in Rio de Janeiro, are expected to be followed by protests by the Jewish community on Monday in the nation's capital, Brasilia.

Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, is to arrive Monday for a one-day visit, the latest in a series of visitors from the Middle Eastern region that included Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders both urged Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to get involved in the Middle East peace process.

Abbas in particular said in an interview he hopes Lula will try to convince Ahmadinejad to put an end to Iran's support for the radical Palestinian movement Hamas.

"Iran supports Hamas with money. Hamas' decisions are in the hands of Tehran," Abbas said last week.

The Iranian and Brazilian leaders are expected to discuss cooperation in energy. The subject of Iran's controversial nuclear programme could also be on the agenda.

Ahmadinejad originally planned to visit Brazil in May but abruptly cancelled out shortly before the controversial Iranian elections.

The Iranian leader's delegation will include about 150 Iranian investors and business people.

Ahmadinejad will also visit Bolivia and Venezuela in the coming days. The left-wing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sees Iran as an important partner, and just visited him in September in Iran.

Lula also plans to visit Iran in the new year.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina joined Peres last week in joint condemnation of Iran for its denial of the Holocaust and refusal to dismantle its nuclear programme. (dpa)