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Mexico's president-elect plans transition

MEXICO CITY -- Newly named President-elect Felipe Calderón started building his administration yesterday, appealing to the middle-class voters who fueled his slim victory and working to win over poor Mexicans who believe he stole the election.

The conservative former energy secretary discussed the 2007 budget and the logistics of the transition with the man he will replace, President Vicente Fox. He continued to call for unity in a nation torn by a bitter presidential campaign and a nastier postelection fight.

Calderón said he would consider including key leaders from opposition parties in his Cabinet, and would focus on creating jobs, reducing poverty , and stopping a rise in crime.

``I am going to be a president for everyone, without making distinctions. A president driven by fairness and equality," he said. ``That's my job, regardless of whomever someone voted for."

Calderón has offered to sit down and negotiate with Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftist former Mexico City mayor he barely beat in the July 2 election. But López Obrador says he will never recognize a Calderón presidency and he is not interested in negotiations with the man he has labeled a fraudulent victor.

President Bush called Fox early yesterday and praised the government on the ``strength of Mexican democracy and stability of Mexico's institutions," according to Fox's spokesman. He later called Calderón to offer congratulations.

Thousands of López Obrador supporters continue to block Mexico City's stylish Reforma boulevard, their protest camps filling the historic city center.

``We are going to fight all of this," said protester Gerardo Fernandez. ``We aren't going to let (Calderón) take office."

When asked yesterday about López Obrador's refusal to negotiate an end to the protests, Calderón said ``Mexico has to move on, to move forward , and keep working and that's what we will do, despite the fact that I regret the rejection of negotiations."

Calderón and Fox chatted and strolled together on the manicured presidential grounds. But in an appearance before reporters, they stiffly shook hands and refused to raise their arms in a victory salute.

Fox didn't support Calderón's primary campaign because the two had a falling out after Calderón talked of running for president while he was still serving as Fox's energy secretary.

On Tuesday, Mexico's top electoral court declared Calderón the winner of the July 2 election by less than 234,000 votes out of 42 million cast. The ruling rejected claims by López Obrador that the vote was skewed by systematic fraud and improper spending by the Fox administration.

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