In his first official speech as U.S. abassador to Mexico, Tony Garza called on Mexico on Friday to prove its friendship by supporting the U.S. position on Iraq.

But Mexican President Vicente Fox has repeatedly said he opposes war or unilateral action in Iraq and supports giving U.N. inspectors more time to disarm the country. The United States says Iraq has had adequate time and must act to prove it is disarming.

"We frequently speak about a special relationship between our two countries," Garza told university students in central Puebla state. "The real proof that a special relationship exists is to act in each other's interest in times of difficulty."

"There's an old saying that in good times, your friends find out who you are; in bad times, you find out who your friends are," Garza said.

As one of the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council, Mexico finds itself in a crucial spot should there be a vote on sanctioning war gainst Iraq.

The other five council members are permanent -- The United States, Russia, France, Great Britain and China -- and each has a veto. To pass, a resolution needs nine votes and no vetos.

Many Mexicans fear that Fox's position may offend Mexico's largest trading partner, or make it harder to achieve the country's main policy goal, an immigration agreement with the United States. The United States accounts for 85 percent of Mexico's trade.

Garza acknowledged that the terror attacks on the United States "created a more difficult atmosphere" for immigration reform proposals, but pledged that "immigration will always be on the agenda of our bilateral relationship."

Garza repeated previous U.S. statements supporting some type of legalization process for law-abiding, established immigrants, and a temporary work-visa program for those who wish to enter the United States.

Various U.S. congressmen have expressed doubts about whether such proposals could currently win much support in Congress.

But on the day after Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar -- a staunch ally of the U.S. position on Iraq -- visited Fox to discuss the issue, Garza also focused on the Iraqi question.

"We're not asking Mexico to do any favors for the United States," said Garza, who presented his credentials as ambassador in November. "We expect Mexico to act based on its own interests, and on its responsibilities to the international community."

In an apparent response to Fox's position, Garza said "multilateralism that cannot enforce its decision is useless."

"There is simply no reason to think that giving the inspectors more time implies any greater commitment to disarmament."