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Home is still N.Y., but Clintons buy house in D.C.

The $2.85-million Colonial will serve family while Senate is in session.

President Clinton and his wife, Sen.-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton, signed a contract Friday to buy a five-bedroom, brick Colonial home near the Embassy Row area of Washington for $2.85-million.

The Clintons will finance $1.995-million of the purchase, a White House spokesman said.

The closing will take place before the presidential inauguration Jan. 20, when the Clintons leave the White House, the seller's lawyer, Edward Bell, said.

The Clintons own a home in Westchester County, N.Y., and White House spokesman Jake Siewert said that $1.7-million white Dutch Colonial would remain their primary residence.

The first lady, fresh off an $8-million book deal, needed a place to live in Washington when the Senate is in session.

The Washington home sits on a one-third-acre lot at the end of a secluded cul de sac near the vice president's official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory. Its bright red door was adorned with a Christmas wreath, and "no trespassing" signs dotted the small front lawn. Trees screen much of the property from public view.

The 5,500-square-foot home has 7{ baths, a fireplace, a pool and garage, according to a real estate listing. It includes a study and an office and was built in 1951.

The Brazilian, Danish and Italian embassies are nearby.

The home had been listed at $3.5-million. It was assessed at $1.1-million in 2000, and property tax bills were $10,671, records show.

The home's owner is Joseph W. Henderson, a registered Republican and general partner of Alder Branch Realty, a Washington investment group.

"They are very private people, but they really enjoyed their home over the years and they wish the Clintons the best there," Bell said.

The Clintons have lived in public housing for 20 of the past 22 years _ 12 years when Clinton was governor of Arkansas and eight as president.

Clinton delays backing

war crimes court

President Clinton probably won't decide until the last moment whether to commit the United States to an international treaty creating the world's first permanent war crimes court, the White House said Friday.

"He will probably take the chance over the next day or so to confer with some of his advisers and reach a final decision, I believe, by Sunday," White House spokesman Jake Siewert said.

Sunday is the deadline for countries to sign on to the treaty at U.N. headquarters in New York. After Sunday, countries must ratify the treaty before they can become party to it, a process that can take years or be stalled in parliaments.

JAPANESE WHALING: Annoyed by Japanese whale hunting in the North Pacific, Clinton wants Congress to consider sanctions against those who make the equipment whalers use. "The president's made clear that we and most of the international community strongly oppose Japan's continued whaling, and we're going to continue to work with those people who oppose it to stop this practice," Siewert said.

PRESIDENTIAL PARTY PLANS: After spending the last New Year's Eve of his presidency at Camp David, President Clinton plans to be on hand Wednesday to watch his wife take the oath of office and assume her new job. Clinton and the first lady were to go to the Maryland mountain retreat Saturday to join a group of family members and friends, Siewert said Friday.