PIERRE, S.D., JAN. 27 -- Vice President Bush said today that when he was told by an Israeli official in 1986 that the United States was sending arms to the most radical elements in Iran, "I didn't know what he was referring to when he was talking about radicals, nor did I ask."

Bush was responding to questions about his July 29, 1986, meeting with Amiram Nir, then a counterterrorism adviser to former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres. According to a memo written at the time, Nir told the vice president about the arms-for-hostage deals with Iran that have become a central issue in Bush's bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

In the aftermath of Monday's nationally televised exchange with CBS News anchorman Dan Rather over the Iran-contra affair, Bush also accused the network today of "surreptitiously" tape recording his angry remarks before and after the broadcast portion of the interview.

Among other things, Bush said "that bastard didn't lay a glove on me" and made a derogatory remark comparing Rather to CBS television correspondent Lesley Stahl. CBS technicians recorded his remarks, but they were not broadcast. Bush communications director Peter Teeley said the Stahl reference was not an insult and that Bush was saying Rather made Stahl, considered a tough reporter, look "like a pussycat."

"Yes, I was mad when it was over," Bush said at a news conference here. "If I had known the microphone was on I would not have taken the Lord's name in vain, and I apologize for that," Bush said, apparently referring to his use of "god damn" in describing the network after the interview. "I was not amused and I'm afraid I said something that was not appropriate . . . . I didn't know I was being taped or I wouldn't have done it; you didn't hear me talk that way on the show."

As for his performance in the emotional exchange with Rather on the evening news, Bush said, "I'm very happy with the way I handled myself and I see no reason to change anything." Bush noted that the interview has provoked a surge of interest in his candidacy, but he denied that his anger was a "campaign plot" to help him in the uphill battle against Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (Kan.) in the Feb. 8 Iowa caucuses. Sources who were present said Bush was visibly angry at a videotaped report Rather had prepared on the role of the vice president and his aides in the Iran-contra affair, and at one point Bush threatened to leave the studio before the live question-and-answer period with Rather.

The Nir meeting with Bush has left unanswered questions about the knowledge and understanding the vice president had of the secret arms transactions. The meeting was recorded in a three-page memo by Craig L. Fuller, Bush's chief of staff. Nir is quoted as telling Bush that the United States was dealing with radical elements and trading arms for American hostages being held in Lebanon.

When the arms deals became public, Bush claimed that the United States was dealing with Iranian moderates and did not trade arms for hostages. As recently as this month, Bush has said the United States was dealing with moderates, a claim that has drawn ridicule from Dole, his chief rival for the nomination. Dole says there are no moderates in Iran.

Bush said at the Nir meeting he was "presented with a tiny piece of a very complicated puzzle."

"I listened to him {Nir} and there was not a big exchange on all of this. I did not know all the details . . . . I didn't know what he was referring to when he was talking about radicals, nor did I ask."

Asked why he didn't raise questions given his background as a former diplomat and CIA director, Bush said he felt "uncomfortable" at the meeting and thought it was a "listening session" which he undertook at the request of Peres.