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Former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird criticized the Bush administration for having priorities "a little out of line" with "all this traveling" when major appointments and decisions need to be made at home.

Laird and former Defense Secretary Harold Brown also said Thursday that President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker should not force a confrontation with West Germany over modernization of European-based short-range nuclear weapons."I think it would be a mistake to force that issue at this time," Laird said.

The two former Pentagon chiefs, Brown a Democrat and Laird a Republican, madetheir comments as Baker continued a six-day, 14-nation NATO tour.

After two days of high-level talks, Baker and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl failed to resolve differences over whether to modernize NATO's short-range nuclear missiles.

"I think it would have been better if we could have gotten our people in place in this new administration...in State and Defense...to work out" goals and priorities first, said Laird, who served as President Richard Nixon's secretary of defense between 1969 and 1972.