JUAREZ, Mexico -- President-elect Ronald Reagan and Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo, meeting just south of the Mexican border, agreed Monday to work to improve U.S.-Mexican relations, maintain close contact and meet again soon.
Reagan told Lopez Portillo that the United States and Mexico in the past 'have spent too much time talking at each other instead of to each other,' Reagan foreign policy aide Richard Allen said.
Lopez Portillo repied, 'Magnifico, Senior Presidente,' and Reagan answered, 'Perhaps we have talked too much and listened too little,' Allen told reporters before Reagan flew to Washington.
Prior to his meeting with the Mexican leader, Reagan told reporters he was saddened by the murder of two Americans in El Salvador and said the United States should support 'one side or the other' in the civil strife there.
But Allen said the subject of El Salvador did not come up in the discussions.
In a courtsey gesture, Lopez Portillo walked into U.S. territory when he greeted Reagan on the Cordoba Bridge separating Mexico and the United States. He technically broke a Mexican law that prohibits the president from leaving the country without the permission of his Congress.
Allen said Reagan advisers considered it 'very significant' that 'Lopez Portillo actually crossed the border' into the United States to meet with Reagan.
Upon his return to Washington, Reagan made a brief appearance at a reception honoring Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., who he praised for becoming the first Republican Senate majority leader in 26 years.
Reagan told the gathering his meeting with Lopez Portillo had been 'successful and wondeful,' and 'establishes the basis for having the kind of friendly relations neighbors as close as we are should have.'
A joint statement was released after the Reagan-Lopez Portillo meeting that said the two men 'reaffirmed their desire to further develop the friendly and cooperative relationship that has traditionally existed between both nations.'
It said Reagan and Lopez Portillo 'committed their personal effort to develop the Mexican-American relationship in such a manner as to be an example to the international community.
'Finally they agreed to maintain close contact and to meet again in the near future,' the statement said.
Asked for his reaction to the news two Americans had been killed Saturday in El Salvador, Reagan told reporters: 'I feel the anguished grief we all feel about that.'
Asked about continued American suppport of the ruling military junta, Reagan said, 'It is not a right-wing government. There is a moderate government between the left-wing and the right-wing factions.
'It's a kind of three-way civil war there between the left, the right and the government. We should choose one or the other.'
Reagan flew from California for a three-hour stopover in Juarez before proceeding to Washington, where he will meet with his new Cabinet appointees and transition team.
Reagan said he and Lopez Portillo discussed 'friendship' during theirprivate, 45-minute meeting, which was followed by a Mexican-style luncheon.
After lunch, Lopez Portillo and Reagan exchanged gifts and offered warm, friendly toasts over champagne. Reagan presented Lopez Portillo with a case of Muscat Canelli wine from the San Pasqual vineyards in San Diego, Calif., and a .30-06 sporting rifle from Reagan's private collection.
Lopez Portillo, in return, presented Reagan with a silver tray inlaid with feathers; a book he authored on Quetzalcoatl, the mythical plumed serpent of Mexico; a glass etching of a horse done by Lopez Portillo; and three volumes of books on the history of Mexico.
In his toast, the Mexican leader told Reagan: 'This has been a meeting of friends.'
Several hundred people and a mariachi band greeted the president-elect when his Air Force jet landed in El Paso, Texas, across the Rio Grande from Juarez.
Reagan was driven by motorcade to the Cordoba Bridge between El Paso and Juarez. The pedestrian walk along the bridge was emblazoned with flags from Central and Latin America and a huge banner that read: 'Welcome to the most important international community in the world.'
Lopez Portillo met Reagan on the bridge and warmly welcomed Reagan, grasping and shaking both hands but did not give him the traditional embrace.
Crowds were sparse along the motorcade route to the Museum of Art and History, with only a few people waving Mexican and American flags and other onlookers standing with their arms crossed.
Just before reaching Cordoba Bridge, on the American side, a small group of protesters held banners reading FMLN and FDR, the Spanish initials for a Salvadorean guerrilla group and another coalition of leftist political groups.
Reagan was accompanied by aides Edwin Meese, his designated general counsel; Allen, who will be national security adviser, and Michael Deaver, deputy chief of staff.