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U.S. energy secretary positive about opening of Mexican electricity

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on Friday characterized as "very positive" a proposal by Mexico's president-elect to open this country's electricity sector to private investment.

But Richardson noted that "this is a decision that the Mexican citizens and Congress should make," the government news agency Notimex reported.

Richardson's comments followed a private meeting with President-elect Vicente Fox, the first opposition presidential candidate ever to defeat the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has ruled Mexico since 1929.

Fox, who takes office December 1, has pledged to increase the amount of private investment in the electricity sector. But he rejects a plan presented last year by Mexico's current administration to privatize power-generation assets of the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission.

A bill promoting private investment in electricity has been frozen in Congress since February 1999.

Mexico's demand for electricity has grown by 8 percent this year, causing shortages this summer during peak hours. Government economists estimate Mexico needs 5 billion dollars a year in investments over the next five years just to keep abreast of growing demand.

During the private meeting, Fox also spoke with Richardson about his desire to stabilize volatile world oil prices, Notimex said.

High oil prices are earning Mexico about 4 billion dollars in extra income this year, but also threaten to spark a recession in developed nations, which would hurt markets for Mexico's manufacturing exports.

Fox, 58, met with Richardson on Friday after the president-elect returned from a two-day visit to California, a state with which he hopes to foster greater cooperation.

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