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Bush Apologizes for Remark About Soviet Mechanics' Skill

October 04, 1987|CHARLES T. POWERS | Times Staff Writer

BRUSSELS — Vice President George Bush apologized Saturday for a remark suggesting that the expertise of Soviet military tank mechanics would be welcomed by U.S. auto makers in Detroit.

"I wish I'd never said it," Bush said. "If I offended anyone, I apologize."

Bush said his comment, made in off-the-cuff remarks to reporters Friday, was meant to be humorous, "but it's not coming out right. . . . So, hey, give me a break. I didn't mean anything by it."

Bush, who will announce his candidacy for the presidency on Oct. 12, delivered the apology at a Brussels press conference at the conclusion of a six-nation tour of Europe. (Later, he flew to the United States, landing during an afternoon downpour at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.)

The United Auto Workers Union had reacted indignantly to the vice president's remark and demanded an apology.

Discussing his meetings with Western European leaders, Bush said he had received "unanimous support" for the intermediate nuclear force reductions the United States is negotiating with the Soviet Union.

"At the same time," he said, "all agreed that we must now turn our attention to redressing the considerable imbalance that exists between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in conventional forces."

Bush met Saturday with Lord Carrington, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and with ambassadors to the European Communities' headquarters in Brussels.

Questioned about the domestic political benefits of his trip, Bush said, "I can't deny that there's going to be some political advantage," but insisted the purpose of the trip was "substantive," not political.

He also invoked what his aides say will be a major emphasis of his coming campaign--his experience in foreign affairs.

"I don't know of any other candidate who has as much experience," the vice president said, noting that he has traveled to 76 countries during his years of government service.

"Politics," he said, "is made up of an accumulation of experience."

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