November 12, 2009
Hannah Strange in Caracas

Latin America has become the battleground for competing Middle East powers, whose leaders are criss-crossing the continent seeking support from an increasingly strategic region.

President Peres of Israel is using the first visit to Brazil by an Israeli head of state in 43 years to urge his hosts to resist the growing influence of Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia group, in the region.

Mr Peres entreated the Brazilian Government to help to curb the Iranian nuclear programme that Tel Aviv claims is aided by Venezuela. He presented intelligence detailing alleged Hezbollah and Iranian activities in the border region of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

Mr Peres, who will also visit Argentina, is warning that Hezbollah intends to strike Jewish and Israeli targets on the continent, as it did in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish centre that killed 85 people.

President Ahmadinejad of Iran is planning a similar trip to Brazil and the region this month. Iran has developed strong alliances on the continent with a number of socialist governments, allied to Tehran by their hostility towards America.

Washington is clearly alarmed by Iran’s inroads in the region.

Click here to read the full article in The Times Online.