WASHINGTON (AP) – The decision against holding a Cinco de Mayo celebration next week at the White House, after having such events the past two years, was not meant as a snub at Mexico for opposing the U.S.-led war with Iraq, a presidential spokesman said Wednesday.

The conflict has forced President Bush to curtail many public appearances, said deputy press secretary Scott McClellan. He cited the Easter egg roll earlier this month, which the president did not attend.

Cinco de Mayo – in English the fifth of May – celebrates the victory of Mexican soldiers over the French at the 1862 Battle of Puebla.

News reports in Mexico have included speculation that the White House had canceled its event because of unhappiness with Mexican President Vicente Fox’s opposition to the war.

“Mexico is a friend and ally and President Bush considers President Fox to be a good friend,” McClellan said. “We’ve scaled back on some of the president’s public events because of the military conflict in Iraq and for that reason the president has not been able to participate in some of the events he has in the past.”

McClellan said the president intended to issue a proclamation “to commemorate this important celebration.”

Bush worked with some success to win Hispanic votes in his 2000 presidential campaign. He has tried to strengthen ties with Spanish-speaking Americans and is the first president to follow his weekly radio speeches with a Spanish translation.

Bush received 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000, more than any previous Republican presidential candidate.

AP-ES-04-30-03 1711EDT

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