Republican President-elect George W. Bush Friday stepped up efforts to fill key posts in his administration, reaching out to Democrats in a bid to shore up a mandate threatened by post-election rancor.
In a highly symbolic gesture, the Texas governor was to meet here with Democratic Senator John Breaux of Louisiana -- who reportedly may be offered a White House job -- for "a wide ranging discussion," a senior Bush advisor said.
His transition period sharply reduced by the 36-day feud over the November 7 vote, Bush could "soon" announce his first cabinet nominations, perhaps as early as Saturday, from his Crawford, Texas ranch, aides said.
Among the names in play: retired general Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was expected to be secretary of state.
But hoping to make good on his campaign pledge to be "a uniter, not a divider," the Bush was focused Friday on a luncheon with Breaux here at the official governor's residence; he has not yet resigned as the Texas' top executive.
Breaux's appeal lies largely in his membership in a coalition of moderate lawmakers that he helped create, and which could play a key role in the Senate, which the election has left split 50-50.
But he may choose not to work for Bush because doing so would hand a slim majority to the Republicans in the Senate, as the Lousiana governor empowered to name his replacement belongs to the president-elect's party.
That would all but certainly not end Bush's quest to buttress the narrow margin of victory by which he became the 43rd US president by reaching across party lines to staff his administration.
The theme of reconciliation played a prominent role in his late Wednesday victory speech, in which Bush pledged to be "the president of every single American, of every race and every background."
Early Thursday, in his first appearance as president-elect, he attended a church service for what spokeswoman Karen Hughes called "a message of prayer and reconciliation."
Bush, set to take office January 20, received his daily national security briefing early Friday, then met with Andrew Card, tapped to be his chief of staff, and Vice President-elect Richard Cheney.
They discussed the transition efforts and potential candidates for administration posts, said a Bush aide.
The president-elect was to host a Christmas party in Austin late Friday, before heading Saturday to his ranch, and then travel to Washington Sunday, the aide said.
Monday, he was to meet with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders, his former White House rival Al Gore, and outgoing President Bill Clinton, who beat Bush's father, ex-president George Bush in in 1992.
On Friday, he received more congratulatory messages and phone calls, after hearing from Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
On Thursday, he had received dozens such messages, notably one from Russian President Vladimir Putin -- AUSTIN (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)