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Buchanan rejects convention role

Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign Monday angrily rejected an offer by Republican officials to feature him fleetingly at the party's convention next month.

Buchanan has said he deserved a prime-time speaking role at the convention, so his rejection did not surprise even some of those who made the offer.

Officials in the Republican Party and the Dole campaign have had competing concerns: While some in the campaign worried that the losing but lingering Republican candidate would reprise his cultural "war" speech of the 1992 convention, party leaders wanted to avoid the appearance of muzzling a prominent Republican.

So on Saturday, Haley Barbour, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, offered a watery compromise in a telephone conversation with Buchanan: a brief appearance in a videotaped presentation, an offer similar to that presented to other losing Republican candidates.

A Republican official familiar with the offer said Buchanan would have made a 15-second appearance in a 7-to-8-minute presentation on values.

In rejecting the offer, Angela Bay Buchanan, Buchanan's sister and campaign chairman, said: "We consider the decision to deny Pat a speaking role at the GOP convention, and offer him instead a pretaped "sound-bite' inside a short video, an affront to the millions who believe in Pat and the 3-million who voted for him."

Republican officials said they had anticipated that response _ and even welcomed it.

The Buchanan campaign continued to try to rewrite the Republicans' painstaking script for the convention. That model is intended as a made-for-television, strife-free platform for the presumed nominee, Bob Dole.

Buchanan is expected to fight efforts to soften the party's platform language on abortion, which calls for a constitutional amendment banning the procedure, as well as to seek new language critical of international trade deals, an issue that animated his campaign.

The offer to Buchanan of a videotaped appearance came after a debate among top Republicans over whether he should have any role.

Republican officials familiar with the debate said that Barbour was concerned that the convention was excluding a major candidate. But Republican officials said that Paul J. Manafort, who is managing the convention for Dole, wanted to freeze Buchanan out. It is possible, as Dole tries to appeal to centrist voters, that an outraged Buchanan raising a ruckus outside the convention hall could make Dole appear more moderate.

The Dole campaign said it expected Buchanan eventually to be on its side. "It's unfortunate that Pat decided not to take up the offer to be included in the convention program," said Nelson Warfield, a Dole spokesman. "But we remain confident he'll be part of the fight to defeat Bill Clinton after San Diego."

The featured list of convention speakers includes seven senators and 10 House members, as well as Dole's wife, Elizabeth, retired Gen. Colin Powell and former presidents Gerald Ford and George Bush. Ten Republican governors also featured include several top vice presidential prospects, one of whom would get a prominent convention role if selected for the No. 2 job.

And for all Buchanan's complaints, there is no shortage of conservatives in the convention lineup, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Gov. John Engler of Michigan and Oklahoma Reps. J.C. Watts and Steve Largent. Among the more socially moderate GOP luminaries scheduled to speak are New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and California Gov. Pete Wilson.

Barbour's list was vague about actual roles, but GOP officials said Whitman and Hutchison would deliver prime-time speeches on Tuesday, the same night the convention keynote address is given by New York Rep. Susan Molinari. All three women support abortion rights. Powell, another abortion rights supporter _ and a backer of affirmative action _ is scheduled to be the final speaker on Monday's opening-night program.

Buchanan is planning a rally in Escondido, Calif., on Aug. 11, the night before the convention begins in San Diego. In addition, on Aug. 10, he is scheduled to address a "Salute to Principle" breakfast organized by the American Life League, an anti-abortion group, in Anaheim, Calif.