Both men say they've acquired enough support to qualify for the party's primary, which begins when ballots are mailed out July 5 to party members and any other citizens who requests one.
Buchanan is the front-runner by far, and his organization of convention delegates and supporters would have made a formidable obstacle even to a challenge by Perot.
Ross Perot, who founded the Reform Party as a vehicle for his impressive third-party run for the presidency in 1992 and carried the group's banner again in 1996, announced Friday he would not seek the party's nomination for a third shot at the White House.
"Mr. Perot will not appear on the Reform Party nomination ballot," Perot adviser Russell Verney told Reuters by telephone.
Verney said the decision not to enter his name was a "very difficult" one for Perot, but in the end, the matter turned on a question of ethics.
"We in the Reform Party try and maintain the highest ethical standardMr. Perot could not accept the nomination (of the party) knowing his name could not appear on half of the nation's election ballots," Verney said.
But he was said to be dissatisfied with Buchanan, the front-runner for the nomination, and was said to be considering allowing his name on the primary ballot to draw primary votes away from the conservative commentator.
A Perot supporter said that he had gained enough signatures to qualify te Texas billionaire for the Reform Party's presidential primary ballot in an effort to block Buchanan.
Longtime Perot backer Ira Goodman of New Jersey said Thursday that backers had received qualifying signatures from enough states to satisfy party rules.
"I am certain I have the signatures," Goodman said.
Under party rules, Perot would have had to accept the spot on the ballot in writing by midnight Friday. The nominations committee, which meets Saturday, would then have had to verify that the signatures satisfy the requirements.
If Perot had won the nomination under that scenario, the $12.6 million in federal matching funds that he earned for the party with his showing in the 1996 elections would have gone to him and could be used for a party-building campaign rather than to compete with Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore, Verney said.
Buchanan's campaign was set to challenge any such outcome. In the eight months since he bolted the GOP for the Reform Party, Buchanan has built sizable organizations in states where the third party had none and has taken over many state affiliates whose leaders tried to block him.
His state-by-state drive to acquire enough convention delegates to block any other candidate appears on-track, setting up a formidable obstacle if supporters of other factions try to put someone else atop the Reform Party ticket.
In the primary, Buchanan opponents may now turn to Natural Law Party candidate John Hagelin, whose campaign says it, too, has amassed enough support to qualify for the primary. Hagelin on Thursday received the endorsement of Lenora Fulani, who had previously endorsed Buchanan.
Hagelin said his own effort made a Perot run unnecessary. "His candidacy was designed to prevent Pat Buchanan from using the Reform Party as a platform to promote his right-wing social agenda."
Hagelin said in a statement: I will vigorously uphold Ross Perot's vision of the Reform Party as a mainstream alternative that will appeal to the 115 million frustrated voters who did not vote in the last election."
Perot's supporters have said voting for Haglin would become the vehicle for protest against Buchanan, but they are lobbying the nominations committee to include "No Endorsement" on the primary ballot also. It is unclear, however, whether party rules would allow that.
To qualify for the Reform party nomination, a candidate must acquire signatures in states that represent at least 153 electoral votes and where the Reform Party does not already have ballot access.