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Mexico's Fox Defends Firing City Police Chief

A political feud is deepening between the President of Mexico and the Mayor of Mexico City in a dispute involving the firing of the capitol's police chief following the murders of two officers who were beaten and burned to death by a mob.

The political conflict was triggered when President Vicente Fox stepped in, and using his wide-ranging executive powers, fired the Police Chief of Mexico City Marcelo Ebrard and the head of the Federal Preventative Police.

The action stems from a November 24 incident in which a mob seized, beat and burned to death two plain clothes officers who they wrongly believed were trying to kidnap children from a school in the suburbs of Mexico City. They were in fact taking photos for use in an undercover anti-drug operation.

The ordeal of the officers lasted for hours and it was claimed by top police administrators that rush hour traffic prevented colleagues from arriving in time to rescue them.

Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is likely to run for president in the 2006, was Chief Ebrard's immediate boss and he refused to fire him.

Mr. Lopez Obrador, of the leftist leftist Party of Democratic Revolution known as the PRD, insists that President Fox has exceeded his authority, is exerting his influence where he is not wanted, and he adds that Mr. Ebrard has been unjustly treated:

Mr. Obrador said Marcelo Ebrard has his full confidence, because he is a good public servant. Mr. Ebrard was appointed independently and people have to wait, but a prosecution against him for these events would be another excess.

President Vicente Fox is refusing to back down, and is vowing to purge what he calls inefficient police to improve their professionalism.

"If this provokes or doesn't provoke tension, this isn't an element we're considering," said Mr. Fox. "We are going to clean up the police and we've fired eight more members of the Preventative Police."

This latest incident, rekindles a political conflict between Mr. Lopez Obrador and the administration of President Fox. Mr. Lopez Obrador is facing a controversy about alleged expropriation of private land for a public highway.

More than 30 people have already been arrested, following the murder of the two police officers.