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Sunday, December 13, 1998 Published at 06:59 GMT

Fourth impeachment charge passed

Bill Clinton: "profoundly sorry"

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has passed a fourth article of impeachment against President Clinton, setting the stage for a full vote in the House next week.

White House cousel Gregory Craig: ''Nothing about this process has been fair.''
The vote took place shortly before Mr Clinton arrived in Israel to promote the Wye River peace agreement.

The fourth article of impeachment, passed along party lines by 21-16, alleged the president "frivolously" asserted executive privilege in the investigation of his relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky.

The committee also rejected a Democrat-backed proposal to censure the president as an alternative to impeachment.

[ image:  ]
Earlier, the panel adopted two articles accusing the president of perjury and a third accusing him of obstruction of justice.

The four charges now go to the full 435-member House of Representatives for a vote next Thursday.

If the House approves any article, it will trigger only the second Senate trial in US history to determine if a president should be removed from office.

'Americans don't want impeachment'

Washington correspondent Nick Bryant: "Public opinion is right behind the president"
The White House immediately blasted the panel's Republican majority for flying in the face of public opinion by approving the four charges.

White House cousel Gregory Craig warned impeachment would "divide the country, gridlock the government and defy the will of the people''.

"Nothing about this process has been fair," he added. "Nothing about this process has been bipartisan. And nothing about this process has won the confidence of the American people."

Close vote

[ image: Procedural issues slowed down the committee's work]
Procedural issues slowed down the committee's work
It is thought that next week's outcome in the full House will hinge on just a few votes.

The White House is looking to about two dozen undecided lawmakers as the best hope of saving Mr Clinton from a trial.

Only two other US presidents - Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Richard Nixon in 1974 - have reached this stage of impeachment proceedings.

The former narrowly survived a Senate trial, while Mr Nixon resigned before a House vote.

Emotional apology

Bill Clinton: "Quite simply, I gave in to my shame"
The Judiciary Committee passed the first three articles hours after an emotional apology from the president.

In a televised speech, Mr Clinton said he was ashamed and conceded for the first time that he merits punishment.

The BBC's Richard Lister: The president still did not admit he had lied
"I never should have misled the country, the Congress, my friends or my family. Quite simply, I gave in to my shame," he said.

But the president crucially failed to admit that he lied, angering Republicans.

BBC Correspondent Richard Lister in Washington says the statement was timed for America's evening news bulletins - Mr Clinton wanted to ensure reports did not deal only with the damaging allegations against him.

Party lines

The first impeachment charge - that the president committed perjury before Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's Grand Jury last August - was passed by 21-16.

It says Mr Clinton wilfully manipulated justice for personal gain and exoneration.

The committee approved the second article - accusing the president of perjury in the Paula Jones civil lawsuit - by 20-17. One Republican voted with the Democrats.

But the third vote - alleging obstruction of justice - saw a return to strict party lines.

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