Embittered rival pulls strings in saga of Clinton sex allegations: Claims by Arkansas lawyer's clients add spice to his personal feud with President

WRITING to a friend about Bill Clinton, Cliff Jackson referred to his fellow Arkansan at Oxford in 1969 thus: 'His syrupy-sweet cultivation of friendships and tendencies to speak in the superlative about everyone and everything rather grates on my nerves.' It was an opinion which did not mellow over the next 25 years. It is Mr Jackson, now a Little Rock lawyer, who produced the two state troopers who accuse Mr Clinton of obsessive womanising while he was governor of Arkansas.

In television interviews with the troopers, Roger Perry and Larry Patterson, Mr Jackson's voice can be heard in the background, urging them to be more specific in confirming allegations made by Gennifer Flowers, who claimed last year to be Mr Clinton's girlfriend.

This week Mr Jackson even wrote an unctuous letter to the President asking him to 'forgive my role as an attorney for the troopers (a role I did not seek and undertook only with great trepidation when the truth of their allegations became apparent) in inflicting public pain on you and yours'.

For the media, short of fresh revelations about Mr Clinton's sex life, the Jackson-Clinton feud has become a fascinating sub-plot amid the other dramas in Little Rock. All presidents are vulnerable to the re-emergence of old companions but, in Cliff Jackson, Mr Clinton appears to have acquired his own personal Titus Oates, always ready with titbits of scandal and innuendo.

Mr Clinton denies knowing why Mr Jackson hates him so much. The most obvious explation is simple envy. Both were born in 1946 to poor families in rural Arkansas and, after successful academic careers, went on to Oxford in 1968, Bill Clinton with a Rhodes and Cliff Jackson with a Fulbright scholarship.

Mr Jackson told the Washington Post that, although they had grown up 20 miles from each other, it was at Oxford that he began to think his fellow Arkansan's approach to people was 'phoney, plastic. I've never seen anyone so obsessed with power. I was fiercely competitive; he was the first guy who was more competitive than me.'

This may be backdating Mr Jackson's animosity towards Mr Clinton to a period when it could not be ascribed to jealousy. In 1971 Mr Jackson was asking for - and getting - a letter from the future president in support of his application for a White House fellowship. Pondering his own future gloomily, Mr Clinton wrote: 'I am having a lot of trouble getting my hunger back up, and some day I may be spent and bitter that I let the world pass me by.'

In the event it was Mr Jackson who was passed by and his current obsession with dogging the President may be explained by the bitterness of his thwarted ambition. Mr Jackson's career as a Republican failed to get off the ground.

In February 1992 he almost sank Mr Clinton's campaign for the Presidency by tipping off the press about the candidate's efforts to avoid being drafted into the US army during the Vietnam war.

Americans are a little uncertain about how seriously to take Mr Jackson and the scandal he helped to publicise. Going by his letter to President Clinton this week, he is revelling in the attention. His clients, Mr Perry and Mr Patterson, are sticking to their story. Mr Patterson has produced a fresh grievance: that he was forced to look after Socks, the Clinton cat, even though he is allergic to cats.