Settlement to clear path for Holbrooke

Minor penalty to enable nomination as U.N. envoy

January 28, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration has notified members of the Senate that Richard C. Holbrooke is close to a deal with the Justice Department to settle conflict-of-interest allegations, and that his nomination as chief U.S. delegate to the United Nations is likely to be sent to the Senate within days, government officials said yesterday.

Under terms of the agreement, they said, Holbrooke will pay a penalty of a few thousand dollars to settle Justice Department allegations that he violated federal lobbying laws in his contacts with the U.S. Embassy in South Korea in 1996.

Officials said negotiations between the department and Holbrooke, the architect of the 1995 peace settlement in Bosnia, were down to their final hours, with both sides close to the final wording of a settlement.

"It's very close," said a Justice Department official.

A friend of Holbrooke's said the diplomat believes "he's done absolutely nothing wrong." But the friend said he had agreed to a settlement to put the seven-month inquiry behind him and to allow the White House to move forward with his nomination.

Prosecutors had asserted that Holbrooke's contacts with the ambassador in Korea, weeks after he resigned from the State Department to join an investment banking firm, amounted to a civil violation of laws that bar officials leaving the government from a variety of lobbying contacts with their former colleagues.

Former senior diplomats have rallied to Holbrooke's defense.

James Laney, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, has insisted that Holbrooke did nothing wrong in asking for his help in 1996 to set up an interview with South Korean leaders.

The request, he said, was simply good manners, since Holbrooke was well known and could easily have set up the meeting himself.

Pub Date: 1/28/99

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