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Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis admitted today that campaign...

By JERRY BERGER

BOSTON -- Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis admitted today that campaign manager John Sasso prepared the videotape that sabotaged the White House bid of Sen. Joseph Biden Jr.

But Dukakis said he did not accept the offered resignation of his long-time political aide, who ran his 1982 and 1986 gubernatorial campaigns.

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'He is the person responsible for providing the tapes to the New York Times, the Des Moines Register and NBC,' Dukakis told a Statehouse news conference.

'I considered that seriously,' Dukakis said of Sasso's resignation offer, 'But I rejected that even though what he did is a very serious error in judgment.' Dukakis earlier this week had said there was a 'strong possibility' a guilty member of his campaign would be fired.

But Dukakis said he 'reprimanded' Sasso and granted him a leave of absence.

'I expect to be held accountable,' said Dukakis, who has faced a series of campaign problems in recent weeks even as his fund-raising efforts have taken off.

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Sasso remained at the campaign headquarters during the Statehouse news conference and was not immediately available to comment.

Dukakis said Sasso's admission, which came Tuesday afternoon, did did not include an explanation.

'I'm not sure he has an explanation,' Dukakis said, adding he had not specifically asked Sasso about his role in the affair during a Sunday afternoon telephone conversation.

The Massachusetts governor also said he telephoned Biden today to 'apologize to him, his family and his friends for what has happened and the involvement of my campaign.'

Former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt criticized Dukakis for refusing to let Sasso go.

'You just can't tolerate that kind of conduct,' said Babbitt, adding he would have demanded a resignation if one was not offered. 'You've got to send a message. There are rules, and if you break them, you've got to go.'

'I don't like to see that kind of thing. That is not my style,' said Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois.

In Des Moines, Iowa, Lowell Junkins, the 1986 Democratic nominee for governor of Iowa and chairman of Biden's Iowa campaign, said he was not surprised by Dukakis's announcement.

However, Junkins said by not accepting Sasso's resignation, Dukakis is 'leaving the taste in the mouths of people that (Dukakis) personnally condoned the action.'

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The tape, which showed Biden using portions of a speech by British Labor Party chief Neil Kinnock during an Iowa debate, was a major factor in the Delaware senator's withdrawal from the Democratic presidential race last week.

The incident mirrors one in the 1982 Massachusetts gubernatorial primary involving the playing of an audio tape parody of a commercial done for Gov. Edward J. King, the longtime arch-rival of Dukakis.

The 'sex tape,' a parody of an adio commercial made by King's wife Jody, was made by a Dukakis campaign volunteer. Sasso said he played the tape 'off the record' for two Boston Globe reporters.

The story eventually was published after a third reporter heard about the tape 'second hand' and mentioned it during a 'casual' conversation with a King media adviser.

Earlier this week, Dukakis said he had no personal knowledge his campaign workers were involved in either the preparation or distribution of the tape Biden tape, adding that he would be 'very, very angry' if they did.

The Massachusetts governor conceded at the time that a member of his well-financed campaign, which has offices in more than 40 states, could have released the videotape.

Time magazine, quoting 'informed sources,' said in this week's issue that someone connected with Dukakis supplied the tape splicing Biden's speech with that of Kinnock. Stories about the speech appeared in The New York Times and Des Moines Register.

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In a withdrawal statement following a subsequent stream of damaging reports concerning plagiarism of a law school paper and embellishment of his academic record, Biden implied that political mischief played a role, although he did not name names.

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