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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Fox meets US civil rights leader
President Vicente Fox
Mr Fox said his remarks had been misunderstood
Mexican President Vicente Fox has met US civil rights leader Jesse Jackson in an attempt to defuse tensions caused by his comments about black US citizens.

Mr Fox had caused offence when he said Mexicans did jobs in the US "that not even blacks wanted to do".

After the meeting, Rev Jackson said the Mexican president had expressed regret for his "harmful" remarks.

While the US criticised his remarks, Mr Fox explained he was merely defending the work done by Mexican immigrants.

Mr Fox is expected to meet Al Sharpton, another prominent US civil rights leader, later in the week.

Mr Fox made the comments last week to express frustration with tough new immigration legislation recently approved by the US Senate.

The law will require immigrants to have a legal status in the US before they can apply for a driver's licence.

The legislation also gave the green light for the extension of a border fence on the Californian border with Mexico.


At a news conference following the hour-long meeting on Wednesday in Mexico City, Rev Jackson said Mr Fox had expressed regret for any offence he had caused.

"He now realises the harmful effects of it," Rev Jackson said. "He seeks to correct it by reaching out."

The Reverend Jesse Jackson
Rev Jackson said Mr Fox's comments had "racist overtones"
He said Mexicans and blacks in the US were the victims of policies that pitted illegal workers against disenfranchised minority groups.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez, who spoke on behalf of Mr Fox, said the meeting had provided an opportunity to work on improving relations between blacks and Hispanics in the US.

"We made clear that this government is a government that has fought for human rights," he said.

Mr Fox had earlier apologised for "any hurt feelings caused by my statements" during a telephone conversation with Rev Jackson, according to a Mexican government statement.

His speech drew widespread condemnation in the US. On Monday, state department spokesman Richard Boucher described Mr Fox's remark as "very insensitive and inappropriate".

Rev Jackson said Mr Fox's words carried "ominous racist overtones".

News agencies say reaction in Mexico has been muted.

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