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CANDIDATE USED STANDOFF TO CAPITALIZE ON HIS THEME OF `GOD, GUNS AND GRITZ'

God, guns and Gritz.

The Populist Party presidential campaign theme of James "Bo" Gritz also came to describe key elements of the deadly 11-day standoff in northern Idaho between federal agents and Randy Weaver.The silver-haired Gritz, a former Green Beret, negotiated an end to the siege Monday at Weaver's remote mountain cabin.

Gritz, which rhymes with "sights," rolled into Boundary County with a caravan of aides last Wednesday and demanded a role in the confrontation. Weaver's wife and 14-year-old son and a deputy U.S. marshal were killed during shootouts on the mountain Aug. 21-22. Weaver and a family friend, Kevin Harris, were wounded.

Gritz's contempt for the government and the media played well to dozens of people who had gathered near Ruby Ridge to support Weaver, a follower of religion-based white separatism.

Gritz contended that he and Weaver had a bond as brother soldiers in the U.S. Army Special Forces, a link he said he could use to get Weaver to surrender in 10 minutes.

"It takes Special Forces to understand Special Forces. We're not like other people," Gritz said.

A decorated Vietnam War veteran, Gritz in the 1980s led unsuccessful commando-style raids into Laos to look for American prisoners of war. Gritz - now based in Sandy Valley, Nev., near Las Vegas - is said to have been the model for the Rambo movies.

Weaver is a Vietnam-era veteran of the Special Forces.

"We're here to get Randy out safely, sanely and quickly," Gritz said last week.

When federal agents resisted what appeared to be political grandstanding near the police barricade at the scene, Gritz staged a symbolic citizen's arrest of Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, the directors of the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service, and FBI special-agent-in-charge Gene Glenn.

"Quite candidly, at first I didn't see how he could play a role," Glenn said, noting it is very unusual to let a civilian into such a scene.

But family members said Weaver had a high regard for Gritz and urged the FBI to let him try to negotiate a peaceful resolution, Glenn said.

"I think you realize a lot of people talk a good game, but I can guarantee you he was not exaggerating what he could do," Glenn said.

Gritz negotiated with Weaver from Friday through Monday, even offering to serve as a human shield when Weaver apparently had second thoughts about giving up.

Gritz told KXLY-TV of Spokane, Wash., that he went into the Weaver cabin wearing a hidden microphone so federal authorities could listen to the discussion. Glenn declined comment when asked if Gritz was wearing a body wire.

"The lesson for America is this could happen to anybody. We've got to change the bureaucracy," Gritz said near the end of the ordeal.

Gritz's third-party presidential campaign rejects President Bush's "New World Order," the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and U.S. military intervention outside the country.

His spokesman, Jack McLamb, said Gritz embraces portions of Mormon, Baptist and Christian Identity theology.

The Christian Identity movement, which includes the Idaho-based Aryan Nations, combines Old Testament-style religion with white-separatist and anti-government views. Weaver is a follower of the movement.

Weaver, 44, entered not guilty pleas at his arraignment on the assault charge and a charge of failing to appear on a federal weapons charge that sparked the confrontation at his mountaintop cabin in the remote north Idaho panhandle.

Harris, 24, a friend who lived with Weaver and his family, remained hospitalized in Spokane, Wash., and officials said he would be arraigned when he recovered from gunshot wounds.

Gritz has called for a grand jury investigation into the government's conduct, accusing federal officials of "murdering" Samuel Weaver, 14, and his mother, Vicki, 43, and gunning down a deputy U.S. marshal with "friendly fire."

"Any charges like that from a man of Gritz's ilk are irresponsible and outrageous," said Maurice Ellsworth, U.S. attorney for Idaho. "He's trying to paint this as a prosecution based on someone's religious beliefs or philosophy, when it is based on violations of federal law."