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October 16, 2010(KATAKAMI/ SKY NEWS) — Fresh from greeting the 33 rescued miners, Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera flies to the UK today for talks with David Cameron.
Mr Pinera told The Times newspaper he is bringing gifts of rock from the mine where the men were trapped for the Prime Minister and the Queen.
The 33 workers were all safely rescued from the San Jose mine this week and all but two have since been discharged from hospital.
The president, who was elected earlier this year, captured the world’s attention as he stood in a pit helmet ready to greet each man with a hug as they emerged.
The 60-year-old leader told The Times he was inspired by Winston Churchill’s phrase of “Blood, toil, tears and sweat” during the desperate wait for the miners’ rescue.
“Many people thought the rescue was impossible and advised me not to get involved, to keep my distance,” he said.
“I decided to take full responsibility without any political consideration… We made a commitment to look for the miners as if they were our sons.”
However, Mr Pinera’s visit to the UK comes amid news of a worker’s death at a gold mine in Petorca.
Benitez Roberto Fernandez, 26, was killed when he was hit by falling rocks.
It is the second fatal case in the region in 10 days.
Mr Pinera has vowed to improve working conditions across the nation in the wake of the rescue of the San Jose miners.
The president arrives at London’s Heathrow Airport on Saturday afternoon and will visit the British Museum and Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms on Sunday.
On Monday he will meet Mr Cameron at Downing Street before having an audience with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
The Harvard-educated businessman-turned-politician told The Times he hoped Chile’s international standing had been boosted by the recent rescue effort.
He aslo hoped British entrepreneurs would now invest more in his country.
“Chile will now be remembered and recognised not for Pinochet but as an example of unity, leadership, courage, faith and success,” he said.
Mr Pinera added he believed God’s help was “absolutely essential” in the successful rescue.
He described Chile and the UK as having a “real community of values” and said he hoped to forge a relationship with Mr Cameron, for whom he expressed “a very strong admiration”.
Speaking of the visit, he told The Times: “For us it’s a great honour. I am bringing with me a gift of pieces of rock taken from the depth of the mine and will give one to the Prime Minister and one to the Queen.”
Mr Pinera will also give a lecture at the London School of Economics before visiting France and Germany.