Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has backpedaled from comments he made to a Puerto Rican newspaper in which he said making English an official language should be a "condition" of statehood for Puerto Rico.

Santorum defended and cleared up the comments with reporters before he stopped for lunch in Old San Juan as he and his Republican rivals toured the island, which holds its primary on Sunday where 23 delegates are up for grabs.

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"Obviously Spanish would be the language here," Santorum said adding that it’s essential that English be taught and spoken "universally" throughout the island.

Santorum went on to say the media misrepresented his comments to suggest that he wanted English as the "only" language, which he doesn't believe.

He also reaffirmed his stance that English is the language of opportunity and that government in Puerto Rico should stress its' importance.

"That’s something that I think is essential to be an American period, whether you’re going to be a state or not, people should speak English and it should be a common language among all Americans," Santorum said.

The clarification from Santorum comes on the heels of an interview he had this week with Puerto Rican newspaper El Vocero in which he said English had to be the "main language" of the island to become a state by law. But in fact, no such law exists.

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"I've said repeatedly that as a condition of admission that people would and could speak both languages, but they would have to speak English that would be the requirement," he said in the video interview posted below.

"I don't see this as a threat to the culture of the island. I see this as a necessary and important step to affirm your commitment to fully integrate into American society as a state and a tremendous opportunity for people here in the island who in my opinion have been denied a lot of  economic opportunities because the government has not emphasized the importance of English that is with my understanding required under law in the first place."

Puerto Rico is set to hold a referendum on statehood in November. Whether to become the 51st state is the critical issue for this U.S. territory, which does not have full voting rights in Congress.

The island's Republican governor, Luis Fortuño, backs statehood and supports Santorum rival Mitt Romney. Romney has been more aggressive in showing his support of statehood for Puerto Rico which has given him the governor's blessing. Santorum on the other hand remains neutral on the subject.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.

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