Sen. Sam Nunn, who led the drive that blocked John Tower from becoming defense secretary, denied Friday he was motivated by presidential ambitions.

"I have no plans nor any inclination to run for president in 1992," the Georgia Democrat told a news conference at a Democratic Leadership Council meeting.He also refused to engage in a confrontation with Vice President Dan Quayle, who accused Democrats of a "McCarthyite, mudslinging campaign" in Tower's defeat Thursday on a 53-47 vote.

"Well, I think it is time to let emotions heal now," Nunn said. "Let the scars begin to heal. I do not want to respond directly to that charge by my friend, the vice president."

He said both Senate Republican leader Bob Dole and Sen. John Warner of Virginia, senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, had said Nunn ran the Tower investigation fairly.

"Some people are confusing outcome with procedure," Nunn said. "And it seems to me the question of fairness goes to procedure. No one can guarantee that the outcome is going to be in accordance with the wishes of the Republican Party on each controversial issue."

While he denied presidential goals, Nunn sounded a presidential-like theme in calling for an end of rancor and "bubbling passions" over the Tower fight so Bush and the Democrats could work for a united defense and foreign policy.

He said Democrats must develop new domestic ideas to recapture the middle class and the White House. He said this would be a "formidable challenge."

The conference of about 50 governors, senators, representatives and local leaders and another 450 Democratic supporters was meeting to map ways of regaining the White House, which has been denied to Democrats in five of the last six elections.

"Our nation cannot afford a separate Democratic and Republican foreign policy on issues as important as arms control, relations with the Soviet Union and the future of Latin America," Nunn told the group.

"America will and cannot prevail as a great power if either our allies or our adversaries look to Washington and see endless division and rancor instead of a principled, unified American policy. So I hope the passions now bubbling in Washington will soon cool so that we can get on with the business of forging a defense and foreign policy that is supported by the main elements of both political parties."

Nunn, who declined to become a presidential aspirant last year, said Democrats must recapture the White House if the party is to form policy.

"Some take solace in our party's continued dominance of Congress and state governments," he said. "But a congressional majority cannot set the nation's agenda - only a president can do that.

"Until we regain the White House, we may be able to block, modify and amend but not to challenge, inspire and lead. We will be the mechanics of national policy but not the architects of national purpose."