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Wednesday, September 23, 1998 Published at 22:37 GMT 23:37 UK


No time limit for Clinton probe

All smiles: President "determined" to get on with running the country

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in the United States Congress has rejected a request to set a deadline on the impeachment inquiry that looms over President Bill Clinton.


Philippa Thomas: "Sense of unease in the American political mainstream"
"I think the American people want and deserve a full, fair and independent review of the allegations against the president, not a quick peek or passing glance," said Illinois Republican representative Henry Hyde, who chairs the committee which will decide on whether impeachment proceedings are to go ahead.

Democrats had appealed for the matter to be put to rest within a month, saying that the alternative could be two years of on-going Monica Lewinsky hearings against the president.


[ image:  ]
Reports are emerging that leading Republicans are already drafting the terms for a full impeachment investigation ahead of a vote in October.

But Democrats are still advocating a deal where the president would be censured instead of impeached - a suggestion which Mr Hyde said was "premature".

"It makes an interesting story, but I don't know of any substance to it," Mr Hyde commented.

New polls show the president's approval rating rose following the broadcast of Mr Clinton's four hours of videotaped Grand Jury testimony on the affair, and Democrats are counting on the apparent growing public opposition to impeachment.


[ image: Capitol Hill: Tension increasing]
Capitol Hill: Tension increasing
Dick Gephardt, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, said a swift conclusion was necessary for the good of the country.

He said: "The choice is clear. We can resolve to do what needs to be done in the next 30 days or we might face two years of on-going hearings."

Mr Gephardt added that he thought many Republicans wanted to keep the scandal in the spotlight to further their own political ambitions.


Clinton's first reaction to the broadcast
Democrats suggest that Mr Clinton could agree to House of Representative hearings to answer charges that he committed 11 alleged impeachable offences as part of a deal for lesser punishment.

Any deal however would have to be made with the Senate, which conducts a trial of the president, if the House approves "articles of impeachment".

Democrat New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli predicted that voters would "resist with vigour" partisan politics and called for "reasonable people" to strike a deal.

Carter blow for Clinton

In a separate development, the White House campaign to keep Mr Clinton's own party on side received a major blow when the former Democrat president Jimmy Carter attacked Mr Clinton's behaviour and predicted that Congress would go ahead with impeachment proceedings.


[ image: Jimmy Carter:
Jimmy Carter: "Deplored" president's behaviour
While also attacking the handling of the inquiry, Mr Carter said he "deplored" Mr Clinton's actions.

"My own belief is that the House Judiciary Committee will recommend that impeachment proceedings be held," he said.

"Because of the highly partisan alignment within the House of Representatives and because Republicans have a majority, I think it is likely that the House will vote for impeachment."

But he predicted that the Senate would not get the two-thirds majority needed to throw the president from office.

"I would say a lot of damage has been done, but not in any case fatal or permanent damage," Mr Carter said. "Our nation will survive."

Nixon prosecutor attacks Starr


Richard Ben-Veniste: "The Starr report has trivialised the issue"
The White House has begun a fresh offensive, accusing Kenneth Starr of producing a partial report into the affair.

The president's team accused the special prosecutor of omitting evidence favourable to Mr Clinton, including Ms Lewinsky's assertion that she had not been asked to lie under oath.


[ image:  ]
Richard Ben-Veniste, independent counsel in the Watergate affair, has added his voice to Mr Starr's critics.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: "The (independent counsel) law was designed to establish a process where serious crimes involving the president could be investigated and provide confidence that this would be an impartial investigation.

"We have trivialised the process and the individual leading the investigation has been widely criticised.

"The example of the last four years probably means that this law will be dead on arrival when it comes up for re-authorisation next year."



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