Clinton's support in congress ebbs away

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THE CHANCES that Bill Clinton might survive an impeachment vote plunged yesterday, as congressional support haemorrhaged away from the President.

A series of congressional Republicans declared that they would vote for articles of impeachment, making it almost impossible for the White House to dragoon enough support to defeat the measure. The United States House of Representatives will begin consideration of impeachment today, and a vote is likely on Friday. After that, the President would go for trial before the Senate.

There are four articles of impeachment laid against the President in the House, relating to alleged perjury and obstruction of justice in the investigation into his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The best guess is that the Senate would not find him guilty, but the Republicans want to press ahead regardless.

Opinion polls show that while the majority of the public wants impeachment dropped, if the House does vote against the President, then they think he should resign. A trial could take months, worsening the political deadlock that is already crippling the White House.

Compromise proposals for a vote of censure were floated by former senator Robert Dole and Republican Congressman Michael Castle. "Would not the country be better served if we took action now - in the next 48 hours - to bring this matter to the same conclusion that is likely to occur even after months of a Senate trial?" Mr Castle said. But there is little appetite for compromise in the party.

The President was due to arrive back in Washington late last night from Israel, where his efforts to persuade Israel to maintain its compliance with the Wye peace accord was fruitless. Three-way talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, resulted in little but accusations. Mr Netanyahu's government looked on the brink of breaking up.

As Mr Clinton returned, there was strong pressure on him for a dramatic gesture to resuscitate the campaign against impeachment.

Tide against Clinton, page 11