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Thursday, April 2, 1998 Published at 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK

World: Americas

Clinton welcomes harassment decision
image: [ Paula Jones's case has been dismissed ]
Paula Jones's case has been dismissed

US President Bill Clinton has welcomed a judge's decision to throw out the sexual harassment case brought against him by Paula Jones.

Judge Susan Webber Wright dismissed Mrs Jones's case against the president, saying her lawyers had failed to provide enough evidence to prove they could win at trial.

Speaking in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, where he is concluding an African tour, he said: "Obviously I'm pleased with the decision, and I think the judge's opinion speaks for itself."

President Clinton: "I want to get back to the business of the people" (0' 43")
Judge Wright said the allegations "fall far short of the rigorous standards for establishing a claim of outrage under Arkansas law.

"There are no genuine issues for trial in this case," she said.

[ image: President Clinton speaks during his visit to Senegal on the last leg of his Africa tour]
President Clinton speaks during his visit to Senegal on the last leg of his Africa tour
Mrs Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, had alleged that the then Governor Bill Clinton exposed himself to her in a Little Rock hotel suite in 1991 and asked her for oral sex. She also said that she was harassed and denied promotions after the incident.

Mr Clinton denied the allegations.

John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, a conservative group that has supported Mrs Jones and organised her legal representation, said Mrs Jones will appeal against the ruling.

Dismissal is no joke

President Clinton's first reaction to news of the dismissal was to ask if he was victim of an April Fool's joke. But he was not the only one who was surprised by Judge Wright's strongly-worded decision.

Robert Bennett: "A strong and powerful ruling" (48')
The judgement has shocked the Washington media and political elite as well as lawyers on both sides of the case.

Analysts say nobody believed that the case - no matter what its merits - would be thrown out entirely.

[ image: Robert Bennett:
Robert Bennett: "right on the law"
White House spokesman Mike McCurry, who is travelling with Mr Clinton in Africa, told reporters that the president "was pleased to hear the news".

Mr Clinton's lead attorney Robert Bennett was less cautious. He lauded the ruling as a "strong and powerful opinion," adding that Judge Webber Wright's decision was "right on the law, right on the facts".

Susan Carpenter McMillan: "The term disappointed has a whole new meaning" (47')
Paula Jones's spokeswoman Susan Carpenter McMillan was dismayed by the ruling.

"I'd be less than honest if I didn't say I was completely blown away by this decision," she said.

"I think Judge Wright made the wrong decision, but with all due respect, it hasn't been the first time she's made a wrong decision in this case. We had to go all the way to the Supreme Court just to make sure it got tried ... I dare say, we will more than likely be back before the Supreme Court again."

Long and winding road

[ image: Carpenter McMillan: dismayed by the ruling]
Carpenter McMillan: dismayed by the ruling
The judge's decision was the culmination of a dramatic month of a contentious and sensational legal manoeuvres.

Stepping up the pressure, Mrs Jones's lawyers released hundreds of pages of evidence about other alleged affairs, included an unsubstantiated allegation of sexual assault.

Mr Clinton's lawyer countered by charging that Mrs Jones's case was "garbage" designed to gain sensational headlines without any proof.

BBC Correspondent Stephen Sackur is in Senegal with President Clinton and reports on the response to the news ('2 ''09).
The Paula Jones case marked the first time that an American president was forced to give evidence as a defendant in a court case.

The case was viewed not only as a simple lawsuit but a challenge to the character of the president of the United States.

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