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Starr to end inquiry before 2000 vote

Resigned to the nation's waning interest in his five-year investigation, independent counsel Kenneth Starr plans to finish before the 2000 elections and issue a report void of interpretations or allegations.

Declining to say exactly when his report would be finalized or whether either President Clinton or the first lady would be prosecuted, Starr confirmed Monday that he wants to wrap up before Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to run for election to the Senate.

Asked if he will finish before the 2000 election in which Hillary Clinton is considering a Senate bid in New York, Starr said: "The answer is yes."

In separate interviews, Starr said his report would include all aspects of his examination of the Clintons, which began five years ago as an inquiry into their Arkansas business dealings.

Starr's investigation subsequently was expanded to alleged misuse of FBI files, politically motivated firings in the White House travel office and the president's sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky, an affair that led to his impeachment by the House.

"It would need to be a comprehensive final report _ that is factually straightforward, that does not engage in characterization," Starr told reporters after a speech to the American Bar Association in Atlanta. "It's clear that the Congress did not want a final report to be an avenue for alleging that one or more individuals had engaged in criminal conduct."

Eleven months ago, Starr delivered a 453-page report to Congress alleging that the president had engaged in impeachable offenses _ perjury, witness tampering, obstruction of justice and abuse of power _ in his effort to conceal his affair with Lewinsky.

Two weeks later, the House, without reading Starr's report, voted to make copies available to the public and to post it on the Internet, complete with salacious details of Clinton's affair with the former White House intern.

"I was horrified" by the decision, Starr said Monday in an interview with NBC News. Adding that he was not critical of the House, Starr said: "I don't think I did enough to warn the Congress (that) this is sensitive material."

Star also praised the decision last month by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright finding that Clinton gave false testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, testimony that fueled Starr's inquiry into the Lewinsky affair. Wright levied a $90,000 fine against the president, whose lawyers said he would not appeal the decision.

Starr declined to call Wright's decision vindication of his investigation, saying instead it was "very strong language" about the president's statements under oath. "This is a very distinguished judge who looked at the facts and came to these conclusions," Starr said. "And I would just add that the system did, in fact, work."

Asked if he might still seek Clinton's indictment when the president leaves office, Starr said: "On that, I'm not going to comment at all. It would be inappropriate for me to be commenting at all about the future of the investigation."

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