Argentine president visits Spain in attempt to lower tension

Cristina Fernandez de KirchnerMadrid - Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Monday began her first official visit to Spain amid expectations that she would try to reduce tension over the expropriation of the airline Aerolineas Argentinas from the Spanish tourism group Marsans.

King Juan Carlos welcomed Fernandez, who then received the keys to Madrid from mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon.

Fernandez was also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and to give a speech to parliament during her two- day visit.

Aerolineas was being nationalized according to the law, with courts fixing its price, Fernandez said at the start of her visit.

Argentina was obliged to nationalize Aerolineas in order to secure control over a strategic company which had not been functioning well, Fernandez explained.

Spanish media said Argentina and Marsans were trying to negotiate a deal allowing Argentina to take over part of a contract signed by Marsans to buy Airbus planes for Aerolineas.

Spanish companies have been annoyed by Argentine policies of trying to gain greater control over the economy in the country where Spain is the biggest foreign investor, reports said.

Fernandez and Spanish leaders were also due to discuss the international financial crisis and to sign bilateral agreements, including one allowing Argentine immigrants to vote in Spanish municipal elections. (dpa)