N.Y. Mayor Woos Conservatives

Steering clear of talk about his long-term political plans but burnishing his Republican credentials, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told a conservative gathering Tuesday how he's reduced crime and welfare in the nation's biggest city.

Addressing the Heritage Foundation's "Livable Cities Conference," Giuliani credited New York's turnaround in the 1990s to his focus on quality-of-life issues: litter, graffiti, fighting crime and moving people rom welfare to jobs.

The result is, he said, is New Yorkers have "more freedom, more liberty."

"When a neighborhood is overwhelmed by crime, people living in those communities are not living in a free country," he said. "...They have the promise of liberty, but the reality is they're living in oppression."

Giuliani in the past has declined requests from the politically influential Heritage Foundation to address one of its gatherings. But now, he told reporters before the event, "is the appropriate time to do it."

The mayor has been a pariah in some Republican circles since 1994 when he endorsed liberal Democrat Mario Cuomo for re-election as New York's governor over Republican challenger George Pataki. Two years later he further alienated many party members with his lukewarm support of Bob Dole in the presidential race.

Barred by term-limit laws from running again when his current term expires at the end of 2001, Giuliani has spent a lot of time on the road in recent months raising money for fellow Republicans as well as raising his national profile.

"I haven't figured out what my political aspirations are," he told reporters Tuesday.

In October, Giuliani made a swing through New Hampshire, which holds the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, but said then he wasn't thinking about running.

Supporters have touted him as a possible candidate for several offices, including the White House. But his moderate positions on abortion rights, gun control and many gay rights issues would hurt him in several states where social conservatives dominate the primary elections.

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