Starr tells Senate his job should be abolished

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KENNETH STARR, the independent prosecutor whose investigation into the Monica Lewinsky affair almost ended Bill Clinton's presidency, said yesterday that the job was a constitutional aberration and should be abolished. Mr Starr was testifying before the Senate governmental affairs committee in his first public appearance since the Senate acquitted Mr Clinton of lying and obstructing justice in January.

Congress must decide whether to renew what is known as the independent counsel statute when its term expires at the end of June. The law was passed in 1978 after the Watergate scandal in an attempt to prevent a President exerting political pressure on the judiciary. The way it functioned in the four-year investigation into President Clinton - starting with the inquiry into the Whitewater land deal - provoked a storm of criticism, not least on grounds of expense. The investigation into President Clinton has so far cost more than $40m.

Alluding to his own problems in conducting the investigation into the President, Mr Starr said the post of independent prosecutor had myriad defects which limited its effectiveness and exposed the holder to political attack. "No matter what the Congress decides, no matter what microsurgical precision is applied to fine-tune the statute, these problems will endure," he said yesterday.

Mr Starr has long opposed the independent counsel statute. But he accepted his appointment, once nominated, and fiercely defended the performance of his office in doing its constitutional duty.

The attorney-general, Janet Reno, has already recommended that the statute not be renewed. With opposition to the law shared by both parties, Kenneth Starr could be the last to hold the post.