STELLARTON, Nova Scotia (AP) _ The Nova Scotia government apologized Thursday for its role in a 1992 coal-mine explosion that killed 26 men, and fired two inspectors who failed to report safety problems at the mine.

However, the province said its apology does not mean it takes legal responsibility for the disaster. Relatives of the dead miners were upset by this, and said they would sue for compensation.

The apology was issued as part of the government's response to a recently completed inquiry into the May 1992 underground blast at the Westray mine.

``The entire system of the day failed the miners, their families and all Nova Scotians,'' said Public Works Minister Don Downe.

``We are deeply sorry for the Westray disaster. It never should have happened. While we can't change the past, we can change the future.''

He announced that the province had fired mine inspectors Albert McLean and Claude White, who had noted safety problems at Westray but did nothing about them.

The province said it has asked the federal government to amend criminal laws to make corporate officials more accountable for safety.

Families of the dead miners were pleased with some aspects of Thursday's response, but said they will proceed with a lawsuit seeking compensation.

``We're disappointed with the fact we're going home empty-handed,'' said Ray Wagner, a lawyer for some of the families.