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Clinton embarks on tour of Latin America

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's weeklong, five-nation tour of Latin America is certain to focus on the earthquake in Chile while she also tries to build support for fresh penalties against Iran.

Clinton will briefly visit Santiago, Chile's capital, Tuesday morning. She had been scheduled to go to Chile late today for talks with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and President-elect Sebastian Pïñera, who takes office March 11. But that meeting has been canceled as Chile struggles to recover from the quake.

Before Clinton left Washington last evening, she made clear she would show U.S. support for disaster rescue and recovery operations in Chile.

Clinton starts her trip in Uruguay at today's inauguration of the country's new president, ex-guerrilla Jose Mujica.

The Obama administration has been pleased by Uruguay's contributions to UN peacekeeping forces and Argentina's stance on Iran's nuclear program, and Clinton will encourage Mujica and Fernandez to continue those policies, U.S. officials said.

After her brief stop in Santiago on Tuesday morning, she heads to Brazil for talks with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose support the United States is seeking for a new round of UN Security Council penalties against Iran over its nuclear program.

Brazil, a voting member of the Security Council, has been reluctant to add penalties. Its leaders express a desire to improve relations with Iran, and Lula plans to visit Tehran in May.

Clinton hopes to win Brazil's backing for sanctions as well as a commitment to press Iran to prove that its nuclear intentions are peaceful.


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