updated 6/5/2005 10:19:08 PM ET 2005-06-06T02:19:08

Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, Mexico’s former ambassador to the United Nations who was forced out of his job after saying the United States treats Mexico like a “back yard,” died Sunday in a car crash, police said. He was 55.

Known for his independent streak, Aguilar Zinser was a vocal critic of the United States’ unilateral actions in Iraq during his tenure as U.N. ambassador. He left the position in late 2003 after a diplomatic flap touched off by his comments in November 2003.

In the 2003 discussion with university students in Mexico City, Aguilar Zinser said “the understanding that the political and intellectual class of the United States has of Mexico is a country whose position is that of a back yard.”

Replacing Aguilar Zinser, Mexican President Vicente Fox denied he was under pressure from the United States — which disapproved of the ambassador’s opposition to U.S. actions in Iraq — but because the diplomat’s comments were an “offense to Mexico” and to him personally.

In an angry resignation letter, the ex-ambassador accused Fox of betraying a long-standing friendship and embarrassing him in order to improve relations with the United States.

Aguilar Zinser, who had been Mexico’s national security adviser prior to his post at the United Nations, later became a critic of Fox and the president’s conservative National Action Party, especially on matters of immigration policy.

Aguilar Zinzer was driving on a highway in the central Mexican state of Morelos when his sport utility vehicle jumped a highway divide and struck an oncoming bus, said Manuel Orozco, chief of federal police for Morelos state.

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