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Giuliani wants to delay departure as mayor

NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's plan to delay his successor's inauguration was designed to please both sides in the debate over whether he should stay on as mayor after his term runs out, he said Friday.

While he doesn't support changing the term-limit laws that bar him from serving a third consecutive term, Giuliani said the month and a half between election day and the inauguration is simply not long enough for a new mayor to slide into the role during this troubled period.

"When I became the mayor, I thought the transition period I had was too short -- a month and a half. And at that time, I was facing a fiscal crisis, not the kind of crisis they have now," he told the syndicated radio program "Imus in the Morning."

"Under the best of circumstances, it takes about three to four months to really get government started," he said.

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Two of the three candidates to succeed Giuliani when he leaves office in December said Thursday they would be willing to delay his departure from office for a few months to ease the transition.

With Giuliani's popularity having soared since the terrorist attacks, some in the city have suggested he stay on for a third term. Others have opposed any effort to change the law prohibiting that, regardless of the situation.

Giuliani said his plan to delay the inauguration to April 1 was devised to appease both sides. "The best way to accommodate both of those things is create a longer transition period."

Last year at this time, Giuliani, 57, was undergoing treatment for his prostate cancer. The disease forced him to scrap plans to run for the U.S. Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was subsequently elected.

"If I can get through the last couple of weeks, I must have fully recovered from cancer," he joked Friday. He said he wonders what would have happened if he were still undergoing treatment, which taxed his strength.

"I keep thinking to myself, at least I have the energy to deal with this."

Giuliani mulled another coincidence that helped prepare the city for disaster -- a "major drill" was planned for September 12 to deal with a biological attack.

More than 100 personnel and experts were already in the city, he said, and the command center now being used to house city operations was actually set up for the exercise, he said.

"What was supposed to be a drill became an absolute reality," Giuliani said.

But as he has often in recent weeks, Giuliani shoved off praise of his performance, saying the firefighters and rescue workers deserve the applause.

"We don't focus enough on the 25,000 people that were saved," he said. "Their being there got those people out safely. So when we say they're heroes, that's an understatement."

That, he said, is a comfort to the hundreds of families grieving the loss of a relative who died rescuing people on September 11. "You can very honestly tell each one of these families that their loved one died for a purpose."

About 25 million square feet of office space was destroyed in the terrorist attacks, the mayor said, but not all of it will be rebuilt on the World Trade Center site.

"There has to be a beautiful, inspirational, and fitting memorial (there), because we now have to accept the fact that this is going to be the burial ground for many, many people," he said.

The city and state will come up with proposals for rebuilding the site. Giuliani said he envisions creating about 14 million square feet of office space there.


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