Expanding the group's membership by including new countries was welcomed by China and Russia to bolster BRICS' global influence to become a strong competitor to the Group of Seven, but this support was not matched by the same support from India and Brazil.

The two countries believe that the expansion of the group by including large numbers of countries will lose the purpose for which the BRICS was established and weaken its influence, despite the support of all members to attract new countries with strong economies and strategic locations, and the two countries have expressed their unwillingness to enter into competition and hostility with Western countries.

Brazil, whose president, Lula da Silva, supports the idea of creating a single currency among the BRICS countries, stressed that the move is not aimed at challenging global blocs, or the United States of America, and said that the group does not reject the US dollar, but rather seeks to complete trade between its members in local currencies at times.

The Brazilian president's remarks and Russian President Vladimir Putin's assertion that the group's desire to rely on local currencies for trade is gaining increasing demand and interest have been met with assurances that BRICS is not currently seeking to create its own currency.

In a recorded speech, Putin said: "The goal of irreversibly getting rid of the dollar in our economic relations is gaining momentum."

South African regulators say the issue of a BRICS currency, an idea Brazil put forward earlier this year as an alternative to relying on the dollar, will not be discussed.

India and Brazil seek to maintain strong relations with the West and fear China's hegemony over the BRICS, while China is trying to strengthen its influence in a wide number of countries, specifically on the African continent, while Russia seeks to provide an international mobilization to confront Western hegemony and counter the dollar that was used as a weapon against it in its military operation in Ukraine.

Speaking on social media from Johannesburg, the Brazilian president said: "We don't want to be a counterpoint for the Group of Seven, the G20 or the United States. We just want to organize ourselves."

Faced with this divide among BRICS leaders, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has ruled out turning the group into a geopolitical rival.

Sullivan said: "This is a variety of countries. It has a difference of views on crucial issues."

Escalating global tensions sparked by the war in Ukraine and escalating rivalry between China and the United States have added urgency to push China and Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin attended the meeting virtually, to seek to strengthen the BRICS.

The two countries are seeking to use the Aug. 22-24 summit in Johannesburg to make the group, which also includes South Africa, Brazil and India, a counterweight to Western domination of global institutions.

Russia is keen to show the West that it still has friends, but India is strengthening its rapprochement with the West, as does Brazil under its new leader.

South African officials said more than 40 countries had expressed interest in joining the BRICS. Of these, more than 20 formally have formally applied for accession and others are expected to send delegations to Johannesburg.