Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused Mexican leader Vicente Fox of being a “puppy” of President Bush and said: “Don’t mess with me, sir.” Fox shot back on Monday that “we have dignity in this country” and demanded an apology.
Now the two nations are withdrawing their ambassadors.
The blow to diplomatic relations came after a week of verbal sparring that highlighted Latin America’s differences over free trade and relations with the United States. The conservative Fox tends to side with Washington on many issues, while Chavez, a socialist and populist, has been one of the hemisphere’s strongest critics of Bush.
Venezuela’s president has repeatedly accused Fox of being a “puppy” of American interests and of disrespecting him after the pair took opposing positions during this month’s Summit of the Americas.
Chirac blames French ‘malaise’
Paris President Jacques Chirac said Monday that unrest in the poor neighborhoods of France is the sign of a “profound malaise” the entire nation must work to heal through job-training and employment opportunities for troubled youths.
In his first address to the nation since the rioting erupted, the president said companies, unions and the media must help bring diversity to French society and combat what he called the poison of discrimination.
French law must be obeyed, but values and hope also must be kindled in youths living in the poor, largely immigrant suburbs ringing French cities, he said.
“These events testify to a profound malaise … This is a crisis of direction, a crisis of reference points, it is a crisis of identity,” he said. “We will respond by being firm, being just and being faithful to the values of France.”
Chirac spoke after the Cabinet approved a measure to extend a state of emergency from 12 days to three months. The parliament was to debate the bill today. There will be a possibility of ending the measure before the three-month term expires.
Bin Laden’s brother testifies
A half brother of Osama bin Laden testified as a witness Monday in a long-running investigation into suspected money laundering, his lawyer said.
Swiss citizen Yeslam Binladin, who spells his name differently from the terror leader, was questioned about a $300 million transfer to Pakistan allegedly made by one of his companies in 2000, a judicial official said, speaking anonymously because he is not authorized to release information about the case.
“Mr. Binladin knows nothing about this transaction,” one of his lawyers, Henri Leclerc, said.
Leclerc said the account in question did not belong to Binladin and that his client had no connection to the company involved.
The allegations were raised by a French private investigator working for the families of Sept. 11 victims, the judicial official said.
Pakistan bomb kills at least three
Karachi, Pakistan A powerful car bomb exploded outside the front entrance to a KFC restaurant in the southern Pakistan city of Karachi early Tuesday, killing at least three people and injuring 12 others, police said.
The blast, which went off about 8:45 a.m., badly damaged the restaurant, part of the global American fast food chain, burning several cars along the street in front.
Mushtaq Shah, Karachi’s police chief, told reporters the bomb was concealed in a car parked outside the restaurant.
Another police official, Sanaullah Abbasi, said three people were killed in the blast and 12 injured.