Hyde hints at two charges

THE REPUBLICAN chairman of the committee that will decide on the course of impeachment hearings into President Bill Clinton has indicated that the number of accusations could be reduced to just two: lying under oath and obstructing the course of justice.

Henry Hyde told the Washington Post that he did not see how his committee could deal with the 15 charges that have been outlined - 11 by the independent prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, the others by David Schippers, the lawyer acting for House Republicans, within the time available.

He pledged during last week's House debate that he would try to have the proceedings completed by the new year. The Democrats had pushed unsuccessfully for hearings to be concluded by the Thanksgiving holiday at the end of November.

Mr Hyde's apparent willingness to reduce the number of charges may be a signal of goodwill on his part, designed to foster a bipartisan approach to the hearings.

In essence, however, it changes little, because these are the two most serious accusations against the President and because it is up to the committee to formulate the charges. The 15 counts are recommendations, not formal charges.