Page last updated at 22:13 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 23:13 UK

Morales urges better ties with US

Thomas Shannon (left) and Evo Morales in La Paz. Photo: 21 May 2009
Mr Morales said he hoped Bolivia's ties with the US "will improve"

Bolivian President Evo Morales has called for a complete overhaul of his country's strained ties with the US.

He urged "mutual respect" between the two nations, saying Washington should not interfere in Bolivia's affairs.

Mr Morales' comments came after talks in La Paz with senior US diplomat Thomas Shannon, who said the talks were a "good start" towards improving ties.

Last year, Bolivia expelled the US envoy, accusing Washington of trying to oust the government in La Paz.

Former President George W Bush's administration then followed suit, expelling the Bolivian ambassador from Washington.

Mr Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, last year also suspended "indefinitely" operations of the US Drug Enforcement Administration in Bolivia.

'New direction'

"After having problems in the past few years... the government and I hope that bilateral relations with the United States will improve," Mr Morales said after the talks with Mr Shannon, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

"The relations must no be based on subjugation or subordination or political meddling; we must have relations based on respect," the Bolivian leader said.

For his part, Mr Shannon said he was in Bolivia to "draw a new direction in our bilateral relations".

The US diplomat later described his meeting with Mr Morales as a "good start" towards improving bilateral relations.

Neither President Morales nor Mr Shannon gave any details on how soon diplomatic relations could be restored.

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