US lawmaker apologizes to Bush for war remark

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WASHINGTON, Oct 23 (Reuters) Democratic US Rep Pete Stark, under bipartisan pressure, apologized today for suggesting that President George W Bush draws ''amusement'' from the Iraq war.

His voice at times cracking with emotion, Stark offered his regrets just minutes after fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives blocked a Republican bid to have the liberal Californian censured.

''I want to apologize,'' Stark said softly, ''first of all (to) my colleagues, many of whom I've offended, to the president and his family, to the troops.'' During House debate on Thursday on a Democratic bill vetoed by Bush to expand health insurance for needy children, Stark lectured Republicans and ignited a political firestorm.

''You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people -- if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement,'' Stark said.

Republicans had exploded with outrage and, the next day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, called Stark's remarks ''inappropriate.'' In apologizing, Stark said, ''I think we have a serious issue before us -- the issue of providing medical care to children, the issue of what to do about a war that we are divided about how to end.'' ''I hope that with this apology I will become as insignificant as I should be and that we can return to the issues that do divide us, but that we can resolve in a better fashion,'' Stark said.

Reuters GL VP0012

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