Starr Seeks To Wrap Up Probe

Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr said Tuesday today that it is in the "national interest" for his work to conclude and suggested he might not need another grand jury in Arkansas when the term of the current panel expires in six weeks.

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The Whitewater grand jury has most recently been interviewing Rose Law Firm attorneys who worked with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and looking into whether President Clinton's supporters hired former Justice Department official Webb Hubbell in an effort to buy silence on Whitewater-related matters.

"The grand jury still has some weeks to go and I think we're at a stage where we will be at a position to assess the needs of the investigation promptly," Starr said outside his Little Rock office. "We're mindful of the interest in bringing things to a closure."

The special Whitewater grand jury, the second empaneled at Little Rock since 1994, is scheduled to expire May 7. Its term cannot be extended.

A separate Whitewater grand jury has met at Washington since September and could meet until September 1999. Most recently, it has been looking into job offers made to former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and whether they were made to ensure silence about her alleged sexual encounters with Clinton.

Asked today whether he would request that another 23-member panel be appointed in Little Rock, Starr spoke of the sacrifices grand jurors make to travel to the federal courthouse every two weeks and said, "We have long sensed that it's in the national interest to bring these matters to a conclusion and closure in an orderly and very professional way."

In the last month, Starr won the cooperation of former Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker, who was convicted in a 1996 trial and who pleaded guilty Feb. 20 to a charge that he conspired to avoid taxes in the sale of a cable television business.

Tucker has proven helpful, said Starr, who praised the ex-governor for now cooperating.

"This investigation could conclude quickly if all persons who have relevant and material information would come forward and cooperate with the grand jury," Starr said.

"I'm saying generally it's just extraordinarily useful to have individuals who can provide information that's helpful... to be in a state of cooperation," Starr said.

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