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Starr Wants Clinton's Testimony

Prosecutors are asking for President Clinton's voluntary testimony in the Monica Lewinsky matter, CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Scott Pelley reports.

Mr. Clinton himself declined comment Wednesday. "You know I'm not going to talk about that today, I can't. I've got to do the work that the people of this country have hired me to do," he said at the start of a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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Pelley said that Clinton's lawyers and prosecutors had opened talks on whether the president would testify.

Special prosecutor Kenneth Starr is investigating whether Mr. Clinton had a sexual liaison with Lewinsky and then obstructed justice by trying to cover up the alleged affair.

Earlier Wednesday, The New York Times reported that contact between Clinton lawyer David Kendall and prosecutors working for Starr did not appear to have led to accord on the timing or scope of any Clinton testimony, but suggested that Starr was nearing the end of the fact-finding phase of his probe.

Several top Clinton aides refused to talk about the story at all.

"I tried all morning long to wheedle something out of our lawyers on that, and I was unsuccessful," White House spokesman Mike McCurry said. "I have nothing for you on that subject."

Starr's office also refused to comment.

Clinton has testified at least twice in Starr's probe of business, legal and ethical dealings in the president's Arkansas past known collectively as the Whitewater case. His wife, Hillary, testified before a Starr grand jury in 1996, becoming the first presidential spouse to appear before such a tribunal.

He said after the scandal exploded in January that he and his staff would cooperate with the probe. Clinton said he would like to clear up questions "sooner rather than later".

Legal experts said there were several ways Clinton could testify on the Lewinsky matter -- he could answer videotaped questions by prosecutors, invite the grand jury to meet at the White House or go to the courthouse where the panel meets.

Clinton would be hard-pressed to refuse a prosecution request that he testify because it would seem as if he had something to hide, political sources said.

On Jan. 17, Clinton became the first president to testify as a defendant in a lawsuit when he was questioned under oath by lawyers for Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee who is suing him for alleged sexual misconduct when he was Arkansas governor. Clinton denies her allegation.

Court sources said there were no witnesses before the gand jury Wednesday because the 23-member panel was listening to tape recordings and examining documents to prepare for further questioning of such witnesses as Betty Currie, the president's private secretary, and Bruce Lindsey, his closest aide.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report