BONN — Assistant Secretary of State Richard R. Burt stalked out of a briefing for the press in Bonn today, and a senior West German official complained that he had "turned West German policy on its head."
Burt cut short his briefing on a meeting between Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Reagan after appearing nettled by questions on what quotes were attributable to which leader.
Burt said in a statement that in discussing the controversy over Reagan's planned visit to the German war cemetery at Bitburg, Kohl had said: "We must never forget and we can never forgive."
Asked repeatedly to explain the quote, Burt gathered his papers and left the podium, saying simply, "Goodby."
A senior West German government spokesman later said, "The American spokesman has turned West German policy on its head." He said that what Kohl actually said was: "We have no right to demand that people forgive and forget."
White House spokesman Larry Speakes declined to say whether Burt had quoted Kohl incorrectly.
Speakes said Burt, a former reporter for the New York Times, left the scheduled briefing "because you were all snickering and making fun of a serious statement."