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Chavez and Spanish king shake hands to normalize ties


Palma de Majorca (Spain) : Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Spain’s King Juan Carlos shook hands and chatted relaxedly Friday in a sign that relations had returned to normal eight months after the monarch told Chavez to shut up.

Juan Carlos received Chavez at the Marivent palace in Palma, capital of the holiday island of Majorca, thanking him for coming.

“Why don’t we go to the beach?” Chavez asked after commenting on how hot it was on the island.

The meeting marked a final reconciliation between Spain and Venezuela after relations cooled following an unusual diplomatic incident at an Ibero-American summit in Chile in November.

Chavez called former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar a fascist and repeatedly interrupted current Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, prompting Juan Carlos to snap at him: “Why don’t you shut up?”

The words instantly became a catchphrase in the Spanish-speaking world, where they were even turned into a mobile phone ring tone. T- shirts displaying the slogan are still for sale in Madrid.

Chavez threatened to freeze relations with Spain, but diplomats have patiently worked on mending them, with Zapatero meeting the Venezuelan leader in May and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos visiting him in June.

Juan Carlos has not given Chavez the requested apology, but the Venezuelan finally said he wanted to give the king a hug – with the latter knowing, he added, that “I will not shut up.”

After meeting Juan Carlos, Chavez was scheduled to travel to Madrid for talks with Zapatero.

Chavez visited Spain during a tour which also took him to Russia, Belarus and Portugal.