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Bush teases reporter, apologizes


WASHINGTON -- During a news conference yesterday after his surprise visit to Iraq, President Bush engaged in a little repartee with reporters, as he often does. When he called on Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times, he commented on the reporter's sunglasses.

"Are you going to ask that question with shades on?" the president asked. When Wallsten offered to take them off, Bush said, "I'm interested in the shade look, seriously" and noted that "there's no sun."

Wallsten later told another reporter that he suffers from macular degeneration, has lost most of his central vision and needs the glasses for protection from glare.

Late in the afternoon, Wallsten said, Bush "called and apologized. He said he was sorry, he didn't know, he felt bad about it. ... I told him he didn't need to apologize, I wasn't offended."

Bush, who likes to tease reporters trying to ask him questions, told Wallsten that "it's a sign of affection when [I] needle you guys."

Wallsten told Bush he didn't want special treatment.

"Next time I'll use a different needle," the president replied.

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