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CIA to probe possible link to political donor

The CIA has opened an internal investigation into "extremely serious" allegations of improper contacts between the Democratic National Committee and the CIA, the acting director of central intelligence said on Monday.

The investigation, begun four days ago by the agency's inspector general, seeks to unravel a tangled chain of events that preceded President Clinton's meetings with Roger Tamraz, a major campaign contributor who has done favors for the CIA.

Tamraz, who was born in Cairo and is a naturalized American citizen, is an international oil financier who was invited at least four times to the White House last year, over the objections of a National Security Council staff official. He is the subject of an international warrant charging him with a $200-million embezzlement in Lebanon. He and one of his oil companies gave $177,000 to the Democratic Party in 1995 and 1996.

A representative of the Democratic National Committee _ possibly Donald Fowler, then the DNC's chairman _ intervened in late 1995 or early 1996 to keep Tamraz on the White House guest list, government officials said Monday.

The acting director of central intelligence, George Tenet, said that there had been "extremely serious" allegations of "improper contacts and inquiries between Democratic National Committee and CIA officials."

Few of President Clinton's financial backers have had a life as interesting as Tamraz. He has had business dealings with a disgraced former chief of Saudi intelligence, a former Israeli intelligence officer and a central figure in a multibillion-dollar swindle, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International case. He said last month that he had done favors for the CIA in Beirut, Lebanon, in the 1980s. A U.S. intelligence official said on Monday that Tamraz had been "helpful in a number of ways."