WASHINGTON (AP) - The Rev. Billy Graham says Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is not the person to preach unity for all races and religions.

Graham told Fox News Sunday that Farrakhan could not be the unifying figure he now says he wants to be.

``I doubt if he could,'' Graham said noting that Farrakhan had asked to meet with him. ``His views and my views will be very far apart, and it would be very difficult for us. We could be friends, but it would be very difficult for us to say that we are the same, or that we could be the same religiously.''

In December, Farrakhan made his first public appearance in months following a bout with prostate cancer and a radiation-related rectal ulcer. Criticized for making anti-white and anti-Semitic remarks in the past, Farrakhan said his health problems have changed his outlook.

``Only through our act of atonement can we be forgiven for what we have said or done to injure other human beings - a member of another race or a member of another religious group, another nation or another ethnic group,'' Farrakhan said at that time.

Graham also offered comments on controversial plans by the Southern Baptist Convention, his own denomination, to send evangelists into Chicago to try to convert Jews and Muslims.

``I normally defend my denomination. I'm loyal to it,'' Graham said. ``But I have never targeted Muslims. I have never targeted Jews. I believe that we should declare the fact that God loves you, God's willing to forgive you, God can change you, and Christ and his kingdom is open to anybody who repents and by faith receives him as Lord and Savior.''

In the same Fox News interview, Graham said it was ``wonderful'' to hear Texas Gov. George W. Bush name Jesus Christ as the philosopher or thinker who had the most impact on his life.

``It was a wonderful answer,'' Graham said. ``I mean, to millions of young people especially in the United States, Jesus Christ is the greatest man in this - in the history of the world. And to me, he's the greatest person in the history of mankind and the universe. We can't prove it, I can't put it in a test tube or in an astronomical formula, but by faith I believe it because the Bible teaches it.''

During a debate last month in Iowa, Bush responded to the question on who was philosopher or thinker who had the most influence on his life by naming Christ.

``When you turn your heart and life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as your savior it changes your heart,'' Bush said.

Two other Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Gary Bauer, also mentioned Jesus.

``I'm glad to know that we do have political leaders that believe in God, and that has been true from the days of George Washington,'' Graham said.

Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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