Bush would be `my president' if sworn in, says Gore

 

Vice-President Al Gore has said he would accept Mr George Bush as "my President" if he is eventually sworn in. As a Florida court continued to hear Mr Gore's appeal for a hand recount which might make him President, Mr Dick Cheney, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, urged the vice-president to concede the long-drawn-out election.

Asked if Mr Gore was a poor loser on NBC's Meet the Press, Mr Cheney said that he sympathised with Mr Gore's position but urged him to bow out. "I do think that it's time for him to concede."

Mr Gore replied briefly in the CBS 60 Minutes programme: "If at the end of the day, when all processes have taken place, if George Bush is sworn in as President, he will be my President. He will be America's President."

Mr Warren Christopher, who has been a key adviser to Mr Gore during the Florida re counts, told the same programme that if a concession became necessary, Mr Gore "will concede in a very gracious way. He understands his obligations to the people of this country."

Mr Christopher insisted, however, that "it's certainly far too early to concede" with three court actions proceeding.

The Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, Mr Dick Gephardt, said it would be "terrible" if Mr Gore was not declared the winner now and a subsequent examination of the disputed votes in Florida under the Freedom of Information Act showed him the winner.

Mr Bush was continuing to express confidence he will be the next President when he consulted at his ranch in Texas with Republican Congressional leaders. "I'm soon to be the insider. I'm soon to be the President," he told reporters. Mr Bush said he wanted to focus on his $1.3 trillion tax cut plan.

Mr Gore spent the weekend mainly at his residence in Washington following the circuit court case in Tallahassee, Florida, where his lawyers are seeking a hand recount of about 12,000 disputed ballots in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Mr Gore claims a recount would overturn Mr Bush's present certified result in Florida.

Judge Sanders Sauls had hoped to complete the hearing on Saturday but had to continue yesterday as the cross-examination of witnesses dragged on. Experts were called to show how punch card voting machines worked and how they could produce the now famous "dimpled chads" where the ballots are indented but not fully perforated.

Whichever side loses in this court is expected to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. This could make it harder for Mr Gore to overturn Mr Bush's official win in Florida as there would be less time for more court hearings and a possible recount before the December 12th deadline for appointing Florida's representatives to the Electoral College.

Meanwhile, the nine justices of the US Supreme Court continued over the weekend to deliberate on the appeal brought by Mr Bush seeking to overturn a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court. This ruling allowed hand recounts to take place beyond the deadline for results laid down in state legislation.