Mitt Romney speaks to the NAACP convention in Houston. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Australia's foreign minister says he wasn't criticizing America when he spoke of a nation "in decline" during a private conversation with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr told Romney in San Francisco on Sunday that the nation is "just one budget deal away from ending all talk of America being in decline." Romney says Carr "led the talk of America being in decline," which is a stronger sentiment abroad than in the U.S.
The meeting was kept secret until Romney shared the conversation during a fundraiser Sunday evening in San Francisco. He was using Carr's comments to criticize a lack of "real leadership" in Washington.
Australian officials said Monday that Carr was trying to praise the American economy.
Romney travels abroad later this week.