From: Reuters
Published May 27, 2008 05:14 PM

Brazil's Lula: new minister no Amazon destroyer

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Tuesday that his new environment minister would not foster Amazon destruction but that the world's largest rain forest couldn't become a sanctuary for mankind.

Carlos Minc, who took office as environment minister on Tuesday, was not the "logger of the Amazon" that critics had made him out to be, Lula said during the swearing-in ceremony.

"To prove he is not against the Amazon, he came dressed in green," Lula said in reference to a loud tie and informal vest Minc was wearing.

Environmental groups expressed concern this month when Marina Silva, who was seen as a guardian of the Amazon, stepped down as environment minister citing inability to carry out her agenda.

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Silva had been increasingly isolated in her opposition to big infrastructure projects such as planned hydroelectric plants in the Amazon and had repeatedly clashed with big agricultural interests blamed for destroying the forest.

Lula tried to downplay such concerns, saying Marina was not leaving because she was a conservationist nor was Minc taking over because he wanted more development.

"Neither of those versions are true," said Lula.

"No minister can break the law, much less those who want to cut down trees," the president said.

Minc, a founder of the Green Party in Brazil, is viewed with suspicion by some conservationists because he presided over a speeding up of environmental licenses in his most recent job as Rio de Janeiro's state environment chief.

Lula said he was against development at any cost but that the Amazon couldn't be turned into an off-limits reserve either.

"It can't be that some people want to turn parts of Brazil into a sanctuary of humanity," he said.

Countries that had already chopped down their forests and were among the worst polluters should not be giving Brazil environmental advice, he said.

"I see the world talking about the Amazon as if it belonged to the world and not to Brazil," Lula said

"They don't talk about the deforestation they already did in their countries," he said.

(Reporting by Raymond Colitt; editing by Stuart Grudgings and Sandra Maler)

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