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President pleads for caning youth

WASHINGTON (Reuter) - President Bill Clinton has made a new personal plea to the President of Singapore, Ong Teng Cheong, for clemency in the case of American Michael Fay, who has been sentenced to be caned with a rattan rod for vandalism.

White House aides said yesterday that Mr Clinton wrote to the Singapore president on Tuesday urging that Fay, 18, not be caned. The aides said the White House would not make the letter public because it was a personal communication between the two heads of state.

Fay was sentenced on 3 March to six strokes of the cane, four months in jail and a fine of pounds 1,350 for spray-painting cars and other offences, a sentence which Mr Clinton previously called 'extreme'.

But Fay got little sympathy yesterday in his hometown of Kettering, Ohio, where a poll found residents backing the lash nearly two-to-one.

'If Michael Fay was my son, I'd cane the hell out of him myself,' one resident told the Dayton Daily News, which conducted a call-in telephone poll on the issue.

Of 2,270 people who called the newspaper, 1,442 approved of the caning while 828 did not.

'If we had caning here in American schools, I bet children would listen to the adults and have respect for them. I say go for it]' a woman caller told the newspaper.