Thomas Countryman
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
O Estado de S.Paulo
Brasilia, Brazil
March 6, 2012

In an exclusive interview with O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, U.S. Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation, Thomas Countryman, said the Obama administration believes that Brazil can play an important role on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. "I hope that every country that is concerned about the future of disarmament will speak out and explain their positions. Iran is violating the decisions taken by the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency - and the more countries that express their criticism, the greater the chance of Iran changing direction. The Brazilian voice is important in all the discussions," he said.

For Countryman, despite the threats posed by Iran and North Korea, the world is a safer place. "If you analyze history, there are fewer people dying today because of wars and violence than at any period in the past, although there remains the threat of terrorists or States creating weapons. If you want to be an optimist, you have to work and plan as if you were a pessimist, to prepare for the worst-case scenarios and do everything to stop them from happening," he added.

Countryman also discussed with Brazilian authorities the country's signing up to the Additional Protocols of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Brazil is a signatory. Signing up is voluntary, but nuclear powers have been pressuring unarmed countries to do so. Brazil has resisted, fearing it compromises the confidentiality of its activities.

"This is a long-term dialogue. We've had this discussion before. It's not a question of pressure, but rather of dialogue between two partners who always present their opinions respectfully, "said Countryman."It is also not a matter of deadlines – they are not very productive in international relations - but there are exceptions," he said. About North Korea, who last week announced that it would suspend testing and uranium enrichment and even that international inspectors could monitor its activities, Countryman says that it is a "start that could produce good results."