May 032007
 
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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Thursday threatened to nationalize the country’s banks and largest steel producer, accusing them of unscrupulous practices.

“Private banks have to give priority to financing the industrial sectors of Venezuela at low cost,” Chavez said. “If banks don’t agree with this, it’s better that they go, that they turn over the banks to me, that we nationalize them and get all the banks to work for the development of the country and not to speculate and produce huge profits.”

It was not clear if Chavez was only referring to Venezuelan banks like Mercantil Servicios Financieros CA and Banco Provincial SA, or if he was also aiming the threat at major international banks with subsidiaries in the country, such as Citigroup Inc. and Spanish banks Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA and Banco Santander Central Hispano SA.

Chavez also warned the government could take over steel producer Sidor, which is majority controlled by Luxembourg-based Ternium SA. Shares of Ternium fell 3.9 percent to $26.15 in U.S. trading after Chavez’s comments.

Sidor “has created a monopoly” and sold the bulk of its production overseas, forcing local producers to import tubes and other products from China and elsewhere, Chavez said.

British queen arrives in Virginia; unlike last visit, this one stresses diversity, healing

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Queen Elizabeth II arrived Thursday for the commemoration of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary and praised the cultural changes that have occurred since she last visited America’s first permanent English settlement 50 years ago.

The last time the queen helped Virginia mark the anniversary of its colonial founding, it was an all-white affair in a still-segregated state. Thursday’s visit was starkly different.

“Over the course of my reign and certainly since I first visited Jamestown in 1957, my country has become a much more diverse society just as the commonwealth of Virginia and the whole United States of America have also undergone a major social change,” the queen said in speech to the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond, the first stop on her visit.

“The melting pot metaphor captures one of the great strengths of your country and is an inspiration to others around the world as we face the continuing social challenges ahead,” she said.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said the message couldn’t be more timely or appropriate.

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