Mexican foreign minister to meet with Hugo Chavez

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez said Wednesday he is willing to meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during the upcoming Mercosur meeting, and stressed that Mexico wants to "calm the waters" following a diplomatic dispute between the two nations. In an interview with local media, Derbez said that Mexico continues to demand an apology for Chavez's remarks about Fox but that "there are many ways to ask for an apology."

Asked if he might meet with Chavez during the summit of the South American trading bloc on Dec. 9, Derbez replied that "if they think that's appropriate, we would do so with the greatest pleasure." He added that no such meeting has yet been scheduled.

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said Wednesday his country was willing to talk, but rejected any "impositions." The diplomatic spat followed last month's Summit of the Americas in Argentina, when Fox criticized left-leaning Chavez for opposing a U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas. Chavez responded by calling Mexico an "ally of the empire" for supporting the proposal, and by warning Fox: "Don't mess with me."

The two countries recalled their ambassadors last Tuesday. Neither country is a full member of Mercosur, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, but Venezuela is finalizing steps to join the bloc, reports the AP. I.L.

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