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Chavez in Friendly Chat with King Who Once Told Him to 'Shut Up'


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez joked with Spanish King Juan Carlos during a meeting in Madrid Friday, saying the monarch's new beard reminded him of Fidel Castro.

In a good-humored reply, Juan Carlos said he grew his beard recently in order to change his appearance. He did not offer his opinion of the comparison between him and Cuban revolutionary leader Castro.

The atmosphere during the meeting at the Zarzuela Palace was easier than during an encounter between the two men two years ago, when the king told Mr. Chavez to "shut up" and stop interrupting a speech by Spain's prime minister.

The exchange between Juan Carlos and the Venezuelan leader took place at an Ibero-American summit in Santiago Chile in November 2007.

Mr. Chavez's visit to Madrid was the last stop on a nine-country tour. He also met Friday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for talks on economic issues and other topics.

Mr. Zapatero was not Spain's government chief at the time of the 2007 summit that led to the king's angry comment. Juan Carlos and Mr. Chavez patched up their differences during another meeting in 2008.

Mr. Chavez arrived in Madrid from Moscow, where he met with top Russian leaders. In comments to reporters there, he accused Spain and other Western governments of distorting facts according to what he called "right-wing" interpretations that portray those who fight for democracy as tyrants, and actual tyrants as democrats.

In addition to his stop in Russia, the Venezuelan leader also visited Algeria, Belarus, Libya, Italy, Iran, Syria and Turkmenistan.

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