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Christopher set to stay, says Clinton

Washington - The White House yesterday moved to lay to rest speculation over the future of Warren Christopher by saying that President Bill Clinton wanted his Secretary of State to stay on in the job "indefinitely", writes Rupert Cornwell.

This week has seen more talk that Mr Christopher was planning to resign, which a less than ringing denial from the interested party failed to quell entirely. Now, however, Mike McCurry, Mr Christopher's spokesman before taking over as the President's pr e ss secretary earlier this month, said the two had met privately just before Christmas and Mr Clinton told his secretary of state he wanted him to stay on, for the duration.

For all the criticism which has been heaped upon the often uninspiring Mr Christopher, the vote of confidence from his boss makes ample sense. In fact, US foreign policy has been reasonably successful of late. With the CIA job to be filled, the last thing the President needs as he takes on a Republican Congress is another vacancy in the highest echelons of the national security establishment.

Although the names of the UN envoy, Madeleine Albright, and Walter Mondale, US Ambassador to Tokyo, have been mentioned,there is no obvious successor is in view. Furthermore, any nominee would have to run the gauntlet of confirmation by Jesse Helms's Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Almost certainly, the arch-conservative Senator would turn proceedings into a televised trial of Clinton foreign policy.