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Clinton brings new names into Cabinet

President Bill Clinton has taken more steps towards completing his second-term Cabinet by choosing the New Mexico Congressman Bill Richardson as Washington's next United Nations Ambassador, appointing the Democratic troubleshooter William Daley as Commerce Secretary, and keeping on the controversial Janet Reno as his Attorney General.

Of all the appointments announced yesterday afternoon, the most striking is that of Mr Richardson, 49, a Hispanic-American best known as unofficial US envoy to countries of the diplomatic netherworld such as Cuba, North Korea, Burma and Sudan, where this month he negotiated the release of three US hostages held by guerrillas in the south.

Tousled, affable and patient, yet a dogged negotiator, he will bring very different qualities to the job at present held by the combative and forthright Madeleine Albright, whom Mr Clinton promoted last week to be the first-ever female Secretary of State.

Like Ms Albright, however, he seems assured of speedy confirmation by the Senate - as does Mr Daley, a centrist who is brother of Chicago's mayor, Richard Daley, and who played a key role in building the bipartisan coalition on Capitol Hill to vote through the Nafta trade agreement in 1993, against much opposition in Mr Clinton's own party

In other moves, Mr Clinton is retaining the services of the efficient Robert Rubin as Treasury Secretary, and was expected to name his aide, Gene Sperling, as head of the National Economic Council, the umbrella body co-ordinating economic policy.

If those appointments were plain sailing, however, the re-appointment of Ms Reno was not. Undoubtedly, Mr Clinton - or at least a vocal, if anonymous, array of her critics within the White House - would have liked to jettison Ms Reno.

To do so, however, would have invited criticism that he was replacing her with a crony at the Justice Department, just as Whitewater and other investigations involving the President and the First Lady were moving into a decisive phase.