The US Presidential Elections: Clinton denies he was guest of KGB

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The Independent Online
WITH THE US presidential race in virtual suspension ahead of three television debates next week, both George Bush and Bill Clinton are increasingly being distracted by allegations of past, politically unfortunate, indiscretions.

Mr Clinton - who for months has been trying to bury the controversy about his avoidance, while at Oxford, of the Vietnam draft - was yesterday fighting accusations from the floor of Congress that in 1970 he travelled to Moscow as a guest of the KGB. Meanwhile, reports have emerged of pages having gone missing from his passport files at the State Department in Washington.

At the same time, President Bush appears to be facing an ever more convincing dossier of evidence that he knew much more, as vice-president, than he has ever admitted about the details of the Iran-Contra operation, which cast a shadow of scandal over the closing years of the Reagan administration.

With the exception, perhaps, of Mr Clinton's draft record, none of these potential skeletons yet seem to be much altering the course of the election.

But the new intensity of excavation into the pasts of both candidates suggests that each could soon be explaining discoveries more damaging.

With the first televised debate not due until next Sunday, Governor Clinton seems to be maintaining his strong position in the race with little impact showing so far from the re-entry of Texan Ross Perot.

A CNN poll yesterday continued to show a 12-point lead for Mr Clinton, with 47 per cent against 35 per cent for Mr Bush.

Mr Perot, who registered only 10 per cent in the survey, was expected to launch his renewed campaign in earnest today. He will be making a paid-for, half-hour broadcast on network television focusing on the country's stalled economy.

Urging Americans to watch it, he said: 'I put it together personally. I wrote the script and drew the charts.'

Among the allegations being aimed at Mr Clinton, perhaps the least plausible is an as yet unsubstantiated claim by a Republican representative, Robert Dornan, that a train trip made by the Governor to Moscow while he was studying at Oxford was at the invitation of the KGB. The Clinton campaign confirmed that the journey did take place, but ridiculed the suggestion that it was KGB- sponsored as nothing more than a 'bizarre fantasy'.

The revelation that pages have been torn from Mr Clinton's passport files in the State Department was reported meanwhile by Newsweek magazine, which said an investigation has been launched by the FBI.

Their disappearance was apparently uncovered when several news organisation requested access to the files to research rumours that Mr Clinton sought to change his nationality in 1969 to avoid service in Vietnam.

ABC TV news has meanwhile increased the pressure on Mr Bush over the 1986 sale of arms to Iran in return for the release of hostages, details of which the President has consistently denied knowledge. Last Friday, however, the network read passages from a top-secret Israeli memorandum purporting to record a briefing given to Mr Bush in Israel in July 1986, during which he was seemingly apprised of every aspect of the hostages-for-arms deal.

(Photograph omitted)