A quiet family Christmas at the White House was to mark the end of what has been one of the rockiest weeks of Bill Clinton's presidency.

With official and unofficial Washington closed for Christmas Eve, Clinton had a chance to set aside the controversies that have dogged him in the past few days, including intimations of financial wrongdoing in his personal investments, reports of past sexual escapades and a controversy over the failure of his defense secretary-designate to pay Social Security taxes on domestic help.On Friday, Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton videotaped their holiday greeting to the nation, which will be broadcast Saturday. "Our greatest gift is the one within - the emergence and the sharing of our better selves," the president said.

The White House also released Clinton's official Christmas message, an appeal to "reach out to the people around us and work for a world at peace."

The president also took his wife and daughter, Chelsea, shopping for last-minute gifts at a crowded mall Friday, then made telephone calls from the Oval Office to members of the armed forces around the world.

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"I called to thank you for your service and to tell you how much I appreciate it," Clinton said to each of the seven men and three women he telephoned in Korea, Somalia, Japan, Moscow, Croatia, Turkey, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and on ships off the coasts of the former Yugoslavia and Somalia.

He asked each to tell fellow servicemen and women that the president conveyed Christmas wishes and the nation's gratitude for their service.

On one call, Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher J. Gilliam replied: "No trouble at all, sir. It's a wonderful time to serve under a commander-in-chief like you, sir." Gilliam was aboard the Scott, a guided missile destroyer off the coast of the former Yugoslavia.

The Clintons spent nearly half an hour inside a store in the Georgetown area that specializes in glass, silver plates and jewelry while shoppers on four levels jammed balconies to watch them.

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