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Lawyers will inhibit Lewinsky in her TV interviews

AMERICANS COULD see the long-promised interview with Monica Lewinsky on or before 3 March, if negotiations between ABC Television, Ms Lewinsky's lawyers and theindependent counsel, Kenneth Starr, are successful.

But restrictions on what she may say could leave basic questions unanswered. The interview, to be conducted by Barbara Walters, doyenne of US interviewers, is planned to begin a whirlwind of public exposure for the 25-year-oldwhose White House liaison nearly toppled the President.

The book, Monica's Story, written by Princess Diana's biographer, Andrew Morton, is out in the US on 5 March, then Ms Lewinsky visits Britain for an interview with Jon Snow on Channel 4. After that she goes to Norway. Ms Lewinsky is in effect under a "gag" order from Kenneth Starr, with whom she negotiated her immunity from prosecution last summer.

The terms of that agreement, which waived her liability to prosecution for perjury in return for her detailed account of her relationship with President Clinton, also prohibited her from saying anything to the media without his permission.

The ban remained through the congressional proceedings that culminated in the President's acquittal last week. Her lawyers had submitted a formal request to lift it two weeks go, when the Senate voted that she would not be summoned for further questioning, but the ban remained in force. Mr Starr's office is believed to be concerned that nothing Ms Lewinsky says will affect investigations still in progress.

These include the case of Julie Hiatt Steele, a one-time friend of the White House volunteer Kathleen Willey, who accused Mr Clinton of groping her.

The Willey case is the closest Mr Starr has come to unearthing evidence of possible witness intimidation by the White House.

Though thousands of pages of evidence were released by Congress from the Starr investigation into the Lewinsky case, the bulk remains under seal, reportedly containing even more salacious parts of Ms Lewinsky's relationship with Mr Clinton, details of White House security, and information about other, so far unidentified women who may have been involved with Mr Clinton.

Ms Lewinsky's lawyers are concerned that she does not contradict the account she has given under oath, because this would arouse suspicions that she did not tell the whole truth and would endanger her immunity agreement.

ABC wants to air the interview on 3 March, because that date is used to calculate ratings across US television. An interview with Linda Tripp, the woman who secretly taped Ms Lewinsky's confessions and passed the tapes to Mr Starr, gave CNN its highest figure this year - 2.5m viewers, double the average for February 1998.