NEW YORK (AP) _ Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said he will not press for a third term after all Wednesday, but he repeated his offer to stay on for an extra three months to guide the city through the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack.
``I'm not going to be on the ballot,'' Giuliani said. ``I'm available to do the transition I offered to do. If people support it, fine.''
Giuliani, a Republican, is barred by the City Charter from serving more than two terms and is scheduled to leave office on Dec. 31. However, he has talked with legislative leaders about extending his stay in office or lifting term limits altogether so that he could run for a third term.
The leader of New York's Conservative Party, Michael Long, had offered Giuliani his party's line on the November ballot while the mayor sought repeal of the term-limits law.
But Giuliani said Wednesday: ``I told him I thought it would not be a good idea. It would lead to division and litigation and the city does not need division and litigation at this time.''
Giuliani's idea to extend his stay has gotten a chilly reception in the Legislature from Democrat Sheldon Silver, speaker of the Assembly.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Trade Center, Giuliani's approval ratings have soared as he sought to calm the city and bring some order to the chaos. That led to talk that Giuliani should somehow continue in office.
Two of the three candidates for mayor _ Public Advocate Mark Green, a Democrat, and billionaire media executive Michael Bloomberg, a Republican _ have endorsed Giuliani's idea for a three-month extension. Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, a Democrat, has come out against the idea.
Also Wednesday, President Bush paid his second visit to New York since the attacks and went to a first-grade classroom near ground zero, where he led the youngsters in the Pledge of Allegiance, stood among them for a class picture, and scrawled ``I love America because I love freedom'' on the board, adding to the pupils' list of reasons they love their country.
Meanwhile, the number of missing in the attack slipped to 4,986 _ down 233 from Tuesday, after authorities found names duplicated on missing-persons lists compiled by police and the city family-assistance center, said Deputy Mayor Joseph Lhota.
Bush's classroom visit came after he promised business leaders that the federal government would provide up to $75 billion more to spur the national economy.
``I was saddened by the sight of the World Trade Center again,'' Bush said. ``But through tears I see a much better future for the country.''
In his Sept. 14 visit, Bush stopped at ground zero to boost the spirits of rescue workers toiling around the clock. Their work continued unabated three weeks after the attacks, with 369 bodies now recovered from the rubble.
The city's mourning for its lost workers went on as well. Four memorial services _ two on Staten Island, two on Long Island _ were held for missing firefighters.
The bodies of 64 firefighters have been recovered so far; the department lost more than 300 members when the twin towers collapsed with the rescue workers inside.
Although the cleanup at the site may take a year, nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers believe the World Trade Center should be rebuilt in some form. The poll was done by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.