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Saturday, 14 December, 2002, 00:41 GMT
Embattled Lott refuses to resign
Senate Republican leader Trent Lott
The Republican leader apologised for a third time
Republican Senate leader Trent Lott has apologised again for remarks he made that apparently condoned racial segregation in the United States.

He said comments made at a celebration of fellow Senator Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday were "unacceptable and insensitive".

Trent Lott behind Strom Thurmond at Mr Thurmond's 100th birthday party
Mr Lott said he intended to salute his friend Mr Thurmond
But Mr Lott - whose power is set to increase in January when the Republican Party is scheduled to regain control of the Senate - again refused to resign.

His third public apology came the day after a rare rebuke for a Republican Party colleague from President George W Bush who called Mr Lott's comments offensive and wrong.

Mr Lott said his off-the-cuff comments that the US would have been better off if Mr Thurmond had been elected president when he stood on a segregationist platform in 1948 were "a grievous mistake".

He admitted that he should have been more careful, not just as a senior Republican, but as a representative of Mississippi which was a key battleground during the fight to end segregation and was the scene of the murders of four civil rights workers in 1963 and 1964.

"I apologise for reopening old wounds and hurting so many Americans," Mr Lott said.

"Segregation is a stain on our nation's soul. There is no other way to describe it," he added.

Controversy set to continue

Correspondents say Mr Lott hoped to bring an end to eight days of controversy since the birthday party, which was also attended by President Bush.

I'm not about to resign for an accusation for something I'm not

Trent Lott
But they add that seems unlikely, with some opposition Democrats calling for Mr Lott to resign and Republican political aides concerned about the effect he might have on support from black Americans.

Mr Bush has not called for Mr Lott to quit and the senator said he had no intention of doing do.

"I'm not about to resign for an accusation for something I'm not," he said at the news conference in his home town of Pascagoula in Mississippi.

Senator Lott said he wanted a "colour-blind" society where everyone had the same opportunities to succeed as he had done, regardless of their race.

He announced he would meet some senior figures from the black community next week for discussions on how African Americans can be encouraged to help themselves.

See also:

12 Dec 02 | Americas
05 Dec 02 | Americas
07 Nov 02 | Americas
27 Oct 01 | Americas
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