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PEROT SAYS HIS TOP PRIORITY IS SALVAGING 2-PARTY SYSTEM

Ross Perot, whose independent candidacy garnered 19 million votes in the 1992 presidential race, now says he's more interested in improving the two-party system. But he wouldn't rule out a bid in 1996.

Perot, who plans to host a gathering of presidential candidates in Dallas next weekend, said Saturday he hopes to bring Democrats and Republicans together."I will, in the strongest possible terms, say, `Let's try to make the two-party system work,"' he said on CNN's "Evans & Novak." "Let's let it work because it takes time to build a third party, and we don't have much time. If we can make the two-party system work, we can get the results now."

All the Republican presidential candidates and congressional leaders from both parties are scheduled to attend the Dallas meeting, sponsored by Perot's United We Stand America organization.

President Clinton turned down an invitation from the Perot group but is sending counselor Mack McLarty as his representative.

"The president has high regard for the United We Stand organization and appreciates their contributions to the political landscape, but thought it was a little early for him to be participating in these types of endeavors," McLarty said Saturday.

McLarty said he would address the Perot organization for about 30 minutes Friday, pointing out that the group is involved in many issues where "clearly there's an intersect" with the president's priorities.

He cited issues such as deficit reduction, economic revitalization and campaign and lobby reforms as examples. Asked if he would urge Perot supporters to back Clinton in 1996, McLarty said the forum "will be much more of a discussion of the issues than it will be a pure political thing."

McLarty said he was unsure if he would stay for the appearances by the Republican presidential hopefuls.

Perot dodged questions about his plans for the 1996 race, saying that politicians from both major parties should heed the message of the growing number of independent voters.

"If you were running the two parties, you'd say, `Wait a minute; we're really out of sync,' " he said.

"I'm just one person. I'm a grain of sand, if you will," Perot said. "But grains of sand can do interesting things, because the grain of sand can irritate the oyster and make the pearl. Now, what we want to do is have the two political parties make a pearl for the American people."