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Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 04:42 GMT
Lott battles for political life
Senate Republican leader Trent Lott
Trent Lott has made several apologies for his remarks
Embattled US Republican Senate leader Trent Lott has appeared on a prominent US black-oriented TV channel to apologise for alleged racist comments he made two weeks ago.

Trent Lott behind Strom Thurmond at Mr Thurmond's 100th birthday party
Lott's comments were made at a fellow senator's birthday celebrations
Speaking on Black Entertainment Television (BET) on Monday, Mr Lott repeatedly apologised for his remarks, saying that he had made a "terrible mistake" but denying he was racist.

"In order to be a racist, you have to feel superior," he said.

"I don't feel superior to you at all. I don't believe that any man or any woman is better than any other."

Mr Lott is to face a meeting of US Senate Republicans in the New Year, who will decide whether or not he can keep his job as their leader.

'Changed' man

Mr Lott's controversial comments were made at Republican senator Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party celebration, where he apparently condoned racial segregation in the US.

George W Bush
Bush called Lott's comments offensive and wrong

He suggested the US would have been better off had Mr Thurmond been elected president in 1948.

Mr Lott told BET that, although he had supported segregationist policies in his home state of Mississippi in the past, he believed he had changed.

When challenged by the station for his conservative voting policies, including voting against having a Martin Luther King national holiday in 1984 and voting against affirmative action policies, Mr Lott said that his actions - for example employing ethnic minorities on his staff - "don't reflect my voting record".

Support fading

However support for Mr Lott appears to be dwindling within his own party.

Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles, who is the number two Republican in the Senate, told ABC's This Week programme on Sunday that there were other senators who would make more effective leaders than Mr Lott.

"There are several outstanding senators who are more than capable of effective leadership, and I hope we have an opportunity to choose," he said.

In a rare public rebuke, US President George W Bush called Mr Lott's comments offensive and wrong.

And civil rights leader Jesse Jackson told US television channel ABC News that Mr Lott was still an "architect of the new south anti-civil rights strategy".

"The change in heart must reflect itself in the change in legislation and voting patterns," he said.

See also:

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