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Joe Biden apologizes to Turkish president for remarks about ISIS

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden apologized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday for saying the Turkish leader had conceded that his country mistakenly assisted foreign fighters, including extremists with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), seeking to depose the Syrian regime.

The White House says Biden spoke to Erdogan on Saturday "to clarify comments" the vice president made on Thursday during an question-and-answer session at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

At the event, Biden said Erdogan had admitted that Turkey made mistakes by helping violent militants in Syria. An angry Erdogan denied saying that and countered that Biden would become "history to me" over the comments.

During their call on Saturday, the White House says Biden "apologized for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of [ISIS] or other violent extremists in Syria."

After the call with Erdogan, the diplomatic fallout from Biden's comments continued Sunday, when another country that Biden said had mistakenly aided ISIS fighters - the United Arab Emirates - demanded a "formal clarification" of the vice president's remarks.

On Thursday, Biden said that "our biggest problem is our allies" who are engaged in a proxy Sunni-Shiite war against Syrian President Bashar Assad. He specifically named Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

"What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad - except that the people who were being supplied were (Jabhat) al-Nusra and al-Qaida and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world," he said.

In a statement on the UAE's official news agency, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash called Biden's comments "far from the truth." The UAE Foreign Ministry said it was astonished by the remarks.

The UAE is a key Arab partner in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS and has targeted its fighters in airstrikes in Syria. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan also have carried out airstrikes against the group in Iraq and Syria, while Qatar has provided logistical support.

Gargash said the vice president "gave a negative and inaccurate impression" about the UAE's support in confronting the Islamic State group and terrorism. He said Biden's statement ignored the political and practical steps taken by the UAE, as well as its position against terrorism financing.

"The UAE's counter-terrorism approach reflects a pioneering national commitment that recognizes the extent of the danger posed by terrorism to the region and to its people," Gargash said.

There has been no official comment from Saudi officials over Biden's comments.

At the event at Harvard, Biden also raised some eyebrows with his salty description of the vice presidency.

When a student at the Harvard Institute of Politics introduced himself as vice president of the student body, Biden joked, "Isn't it a bitch, I mean... that vice president thing? I mean, whoa."

The audience laughed, and the vice president quickly added, "I'm joking. I'm joking. I'm joking. Best decision I ever made."