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Clinton sex case delay blamed on media

A planned confrontation between President Clinton and the woman who has accused him of sexual harassment looked likely to be delayed yesterday after the date set for the encounter was leaked to the press. Mr Clinton's lawyer, Robert Bennett, said it was probable the date would have to be changed to avert a "media spectacle".

The conservative Washington Times, which is anti-Clinton, had reported that Mr Clinton would give his deposition - a pre-trial sworn statement - at the White House on 17 January. As the accuser, Paula Jones, who alleges that Mr Clinton made an unwanted sexual advance to her while governor of Arkansas in 1991, has the right to attend and made known her intention of doing so.

Mr Bennett said yesterday that the arrival of Ms Jones at the White House was bound to become a media event if the date were known in advance. Upping the ante in the case, he played down the possibility of an out of court settlement, accusing Ms Jones of wanting to profit financially.He also accused the right-wing Rutherford Institute that is helping to fund Ms Jones's case of using the case in an attempt to embarrass the President. The trial is set to start on 27 May in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In a related development, the US Treasury has disclosed that it is investigating a decision by the Internal Revenue Service to subject Ms Jones to a tax audit. This procedure, which terrifies most Americans, is invoked mainly when the authorities suspect irregularities, but there is widespread suspicion that it is also used by the powerful to intimidate political opponents. Yesterday, Mr Bennett dissociated himself and the White House from the tax audit.