July 20, 2008
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday he would like to give the king of Spain a hug when he visits Europe next week, but the outspoken leader, referring to a diplomatic spat last year, said he will not shut up.
King Juan Carlos sparked a furor in November by shouting "Why don't you shut up?" at Chavez when he tried to interrupt a speech by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at the Ibero-American summit in Chile.
Ties have improved since then and the Spanish government said last week that Chavez will meet the king on a visit to Spain next week.
"I'd like to give the king a hug, but you know, Juan Carlos, that I am not going to shut up," a smiling Chavez said on his weekly television show before setting of to Russia for the first leg of his tour.
"We will keep talking for ourselves, for a just and equal world," the left-wing president said.
The king's November outburst made headlines around the world, spawning songs, jokes and even a ringtone for mobile phones.
Chavez threatened to review diplomatic and business ties with Venezuela's former colonial power, a major investor in the region.
Despite ongoing tensions over Europe's immigration policies, tempers have now calmed and Chavez referred to the king as an "old friend," during a meeting with the Spanish prime minister at a summit in Peru in May.
Chavez, making his first visit to Spain since the spat, will meet the king next Friday on the island of Mallorca after which he will travel to Madrid to meet Zapatero, Spain said last week.
Reporting by Patricia Rondon, editing by Vicki Allen