Clinton to Zedillo: We Still Amigos?

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WASHINGTON: It may have sounded like an apology, and Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo was certainly welcome to take it as such. But President Clinton's phone call south of the border about the rather insulting one-sidedness of Janet Reno's sting of corrupt Mexican bankers last week was nothing more than diplomatic nicety.

Listen to Mike McCurry's very careful wording at Tuesday's press conference: "President Clinton expressed regret that better prior consultation had not been possible in this case." Translation: We'd love to be able to trust you -- but we can't.

"Of course they can't," says TIME Justice Department correspondent Elaine Shannon. "However sincere Mexico's top drug enforcement officials may be, no one believes that Mexico has cleaned up its police agencies. It would be the height of irresponsibility to send American undercover agents into that environment." Shannon says the Mexicans will probably take any form of apology they can get. But don't expect the U.S. to do things any differently next time.