US lawmaker apologises for racial slur

WASHINGTON (AP) - One of the most senior Republicans in the US House of Representatives has apologised for using the racial slur "wetbacks" in referring to Hispanic migrant workers.

Representative Don Young, now in his 42nd year in the House, said in an interview with an Alaskan radio station that when he was young, his father "used 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes" on their California farm.

In a statement issued late on Thursday, Mr Young said the derogatory term was used commonly when he was growing up and that he "meant no disrespect". He said he had discussed in the interview the compassion he had for these workers.

The Republican Party is seeking to temper its hard-line positions on those in the country illegally to improve its standing among Hispanic voters, who went overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in last November's election.