NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ As the debate over immigration continues in the United States, former Mexican President Vicente Fox on Monday urged the respect of human and labor rights and criticized efforts to construct a wall between the two countries.
``No more walls. No more waste of money and budget. No more guards,'' Fox said in a keynote address during an academic convocation at the University of Oklahoma.
``By working together, we can build a better future for both of our countries.''
Fox said the United States and Mexico are both are part of the Americas and said strengthening the partnership between the two countries was critical to a successful partnership between the two.
``God made us neighbors. We have become friends,'' he said. ``Prosperity for North America, this is my American dream.''
Fox, who served as Mexico's president from 2000 to 2006, touted his country's economic improvement in recent years, but said much work remains to be done to provide more educational opportunities for its citizens.
``The educational gap continues to be wider than the economic gap,'' Fox said.
Fox drew loud applause from the mostly students in the audience when he called for a greater United Nations presence in Iraq and urged the United States to exit the country.
``I think it's time for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq,'' Fox said. ``Leave the Iraqi's fate in the hands of the Iraqis.
``The people of Iraq should be left to construct their own future.''
Fox also praised the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he said has helped improve the economies of both countries, and urged American leaders to continue working to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. He said Mexico, the United States and Canada all are losing manufacturing jobs to China.
``If we join together, we could defend those jobs,'' he said.
Following his comments, University of Oklahoma President David Boren praised Fox for breaking seven decades of one-party rule in Mexico and for bringing stability to the country's economy.
``By strengthening your country, you have strengthened our country,'' Boren said, adding that future prosperity ``will be built not by the Hugo Chavez's of the world, but by the Vicente Fox's of the world.''