VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez will meet Spain's King Juan Carlos at Marivent Palace in Palma next week on a European tour, a government spokesman said yesterday, a sign ties have improved since the king told Chavez to “shut up” at a summit last year.

The king sparked a diplomatic furore 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.

The outburst made headlines around the world, became a ringtone for mobile phones, and Venezuelans even proposed the opposition take up the phrase as a new political slogan.

Chavez escalated the dispute by threatening to review diplomatic and business ties with Venezuela's former colonial power, a major investor in the region.

Tempers have calmed since then and Chavez sent greetings to the king, calling him 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 here in Palma before traveling to Madrid to meet Zapatero, a spokesman at the prime minister's office said.

The King and Queen Sofia of Spain will fly into Majorca today at the start of their annual summer holiday at Marivent Palace.


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