The Taoiseach left Dublin today for a State visit to Brazil and Argentina. The function of the visit is to promote links, particularly economic links, with both countries. During his nine-day visit, the Taoiseach will hold working meetings with the Argentine President, Fernando de la Rua, and Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Mr Ahern is expected to stress the importance of the links that have been forged between Ireland and both countries during these meetings. He will highlight Ireland's Ireland economic success in an attempt to strengthen the trade links with Latin America when he addresses the federation of industries of Sao Paulo and the Federation of Industries of Rio de Janeiro later in the week.

Mr Ahern and his delegation will meet Irish missionaries working in Sao Paulo and will visit a large Irish Community project in Rio de Janeiro. A spokeswoman for the Government said that the Taoiseach would be kept fully briefed on developments in Northern Ireland while he is away. He is due to return to Ireland on 25 July. His partner, Celia Larkin, will accompany Mr Ahern.