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Obama hails Mexican president-elect in WH meeting

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President Barack Obama and Mexico's President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto smile before making remarks prior to their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama hailed an "ambitious reform agenda" set forth by the incoming president of Mexico as he and President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto met Tuesday at the White House.

Obama said it was fitting that the men were meeting even before Pena Nieto takes office on Saturday, calling it a sign of the close relationship between the two countries.

"What happens in Mexico has an impact on our society," Obama said before the Oval Office meeting, which also included Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama said he had forged a close working relationship with outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon and was confident he could establish a similar "close personal and professional relationship" with Pena Nieto, leader of Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Obama said he was confident Mexico and the United States will be able to strengthen longstanding economic and trade ties, as well as increase security along their common border.

He also said he would press ahead with comprehensive immigration reform and looked forward to cooperation from Pena Nieto in longstanding U.S. efforts to stem illegal immigration from Mexico.

Pena Nieto congratulated Obama on winning a second term and said he was looking forward to strengthening already close relations between the countries.

Pena Nieto noted that both he and Obama are former legislators in their respective countries — giving them a deeper understanding of politics — and said both men were focused on job creation as their top priority.

Pena Nieto praised Obama's calls for immigration reform and said he would work with U.S. officials to address illegal immigration from Mexico.

"We fully support your proposal," Pena Nieto told Obama, in remarks that were translated from Spanish. "We want to contribute. We want to be part of this."

Pena Nieto invited Obama to visit Mexico at any time, an offer Obama said he would consider. Obama joked that he was "jealous" of Biden, who is leading a U.S. delegation to attend Pena Nieto's inauguration on Saturday.

About two-thirds of the more than 50 million Hispanics in the United States self-identify as being of Mexican descent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center,

Reach Matthew Daly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC

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