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Clinton says he's sorry, yet again

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON apologised for the effects of his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky again yesterday, this time to Democratic colleagues in Congress. Even as he spoke, rules for his impeachment were being laid ahead of the arrival of the report from Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel.

At an emotional breakfast meeting at the White House, the President sought to explain himself to Democrats from the House of Representatives, which would handle impeachment hearings. "What we saw was a father, a husband, a leader of our country who was contrite and very sorry for his actions," said David Bonior, a senior figure in the House. "I think Democrats, when they meet with the President, talk to the President as we have, will understand the deep, deep pain that he feels personally," he said. Members of the President's party have been highly critical of him. On his first trip out of Washington since his return from Ireland, to a school in Orlando, Florida, he was met by a crowd of about 200, some waving placards reading "Resign, you swine".

An earlier apology during the President's Irish trip made little impact and he may use another forum to make a more complete explanation, perhaps at a prayer meeting tomorrow.

But while the President tries to turn the tables on his critics, the legal machine that would take him to trial is being fine-tuned.

Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House of Representatives, met his Democrat counterpart, Richard Gephardt, yesterday to lay rules for how Congress will handle the Starr report, expected any day. A key issue is when, and how, it will be published.

Impeachment hearings would be handled by the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, the Republican Henry Hyde, yesterday reflected on the task: "This is a lousy job but somebody has to do it. Nobody looks forward to this traumatic journey we are embarking on."

Impeachment risk, page 13