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Reno not to pursue fund-raising inquiry

The US Attorney General, Janet Reno, decided yesterday not to pursue the investigation into President Clinton and his Vice-President, Al Gore, for alleged breaches of the law on political fund-raising. Her decision, announced with only hours to spare before the deadline expired, was immediately attacked by opposition Republicans, who accused her of bowing to party interests.

At issue was the appointment of an independent counsel to continue the judicial investigation into Mr Clinton and Mr Gore. Both were accused of breaking the law by using funds raised for general campaign purposes for their own re-election efforts and by soliciting party campaign funds from the White House.

Ms Reno's reputation for integrity and independence was until recently undisputed. She did, after all, appoint an independent prosecutor to examine the Whitewater land deal in which Mr Clinton and his wife, Hillary, were both implicated.

Ms Reno's decision has laid her open to charges of political bias. It has also opened up a rift between herself and the head of the FBI, Louis Freeh. He reportedly sent her a memo this week, setting out his own view that an independent counsel should be appointed.