Clinton bows to inquiry

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WASHINGTON - Overwhelmed by political clamour, the White House said yesterday that it would ask the Attorney-General, Janet Reno, to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the Whitewater property venture the Clinton couple once partly owned, and its tangled dealings with a failed Arkansas savings bank, writes Rupert Cornwell.

'The President requests that this investigation be conducted as expeditiously as possible,' said an official. From Europe Bill Clinton had hinted at an about-turn, telling CBS television he was 're-evaluating' his opposition to such a move.

Earlier White House efforts to portray Republican demands for a counsel as a partisan witch-hunt have collapsed, with nine Democratic senators agreeing that an independent investigation is the only way to clear the air. The Senate Minority Leader, Bob Dole, increased the pressure further by urging a bipartisan senate select committee to investigate the affair.

The President also faces demands to waive the normal five-year statute of limitations applying to any civil law improprieties. In the case of the Madison Guaranty savings and loan bank of Little Rock, which was closed in 1989, this would come into force in a matter of months.