Monterrey, Mexico President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox forged agreement Monday on the contentious issues of immigration and Iraq, ending two years of discord that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Fox wholeheartedly embraced Bush's immigration proposal to grant legal status to millions of undocumented workers in the United States, most of them from Mexico. "What else can we wish?" Fox said at a news conference with the president.
The two leaders met before the opening of a 34-nation hemispheric summit dealing with issues such as poverty, trade, corruption and unhappiness in Latin America about new U.S. security measures to combat terrorism.
Bush dismissed suggestions that the immigration proposal was an election-year gambit to attract Hispanic voters in America.
However, Bush predicted, "There will be politics probably involved in whether or not it passes Congress."
"It recognizes the reality of our country," Bush said. "The truth is, the vast majority of foreign workers in America are from Mexico."
The two leaders were eager to project unity after two rocky years.
The Sept. 11 attacks distracted Bush from the immigration overhaul that Fox had appealed for, and relations cooled further when Mexico refused to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
In August 2002, Fox canceled a visit to Bush's ranch to protest the Texas execution of police killer Javier Suarez Medina.
In a gesture of reconciliation, Bush re-invited Fox to his Texas ranch March 5-6, and Fox accepted.
They sought to emphasize agreement on postwar Iraq, too. Fox congratulated Bush for the capture of Saddam Hussein by American forces. "He will be taken to trial, to judgment. We fully support that," the Mexican president said.
On another issue, Bush declined to criticize former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, whose new book says the administration aimed to topple the Iraqi government even before the Sept. 11 attacks.
"First, let me say I appreciate former Secretary O'Neill's service to our country," Bush said. He said that when he became president, he inherited a policy of "regime change" from former President Clinton and adopted it as his own. "So we were fashioning policy along those lines and then all of a sudden Sept. 11 hit," he said.