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Perot seeks team to enhance image

As Governor Bill Clinton continues his soundings in Washington on a vice-presidential running-mate, his undeclared rival, Ross Perot, has embarked upon the crucial task of assembling a team of policy advisers to help shape the campaign and the Perot presidency which might follow.

True to his taste for secrecy, the Texan billionaire has given few clues to the identity of the 100 or so experts and supporters who were attending a lunch in a Dallas hotel yesterday. 'It's a private meeting with people from around the country,' was all a spokesman would say. From the group, however, will emerge the nucleus of a 'national advisory committee' on which Mr Perot will be leaning heavily in the months to come.

The advisory panel is designed to meet two nagging doubts about Mr Perot as voters begin to take a more sober view of his candidacy: the lack of clear-cut positions on many important issues and concern over his ability to put together an adequate team, should he win power in November.

According to several opinion polls, voters are troubled less by Mr Perot's high-handedness and business ruthlessness than by his lack of a party base and experience in elected office. Democrats and Republicans alike say an independent in the White House would add to the difficulties of government. Hence, analysts contend, the importance of putting together a high-calibre team quickly, to underpin the credibility of his presidential bid. Failure to do so could drive away many wavering Perot supporters.

No less indicative than his selection of advisers will be Mr Perot's choice of running-mate. Mr Clinton, meanwhile, is on the verge of deciding his own vice-presidential candidate. The frontrunners appear to be Senator Albert Gore, Congressman Lee Hamilton and Senator Bob Kerrey, who ran unsuccessfully for the presidential nomination this year.