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Diverse interests unite in Rio to protest Ahmadinejad visit

About 1,000 demonstrators gathered in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday to protest a Monday visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A range of gay, Jewish, Christian, anti-racism and other activists joined forces for the protest.

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AFP - About 1,000 demonstrators gathered in Rio de Janeiro Sunday to protest the visit this week by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The demonstrators represented a wide range of gay, Jewish, evangelical Christian, anti-racism and other activist groups.

"Brazil stands for diversity, peace, tolerance and coexistence among different peoples," said one demonstrator, Erlix Esteves, 40, a member of the Am Israel group.

"Ahmadinejad's visit goes against what Brazil is about," Esteves said.

Ahmadinejad was due to arrive in Brazil on Monday for a busy day-long visit that includes a meeting with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, signing bilateral trade deals, a visit to Congress, a press conference and a speech at a Brasilia university, according to the embassy.

It will be the first visit by an Iranian president to Brazil, and Ahmadinejad's third round of talks with Lula, who is scheduled to visit Tehran in early 2010.

Jewish groups here have been particularly rankled by the visit because of Ahmadinejad's statements over the year denying the Holocaust.

Israel, whose conservative government considers Ahmadinejad-ruled Iran an existential threat, has blasted Brazil's "mistake" in hosting the firebrand leader.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad last week issued a statement defending closer ties with Brazil, and hinting at closer bilateral ties on a number of areas, including nuclear cooperation.

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