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MEETING SET ON AVOIDING DEBT DEFAULT

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President Clinton will meet with congressional leaders Wednesday to explore how the government can avoid defaulting on its debts during the battle over the budget, the White House said Tuesday.

The meeting was suggested by Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole during a telephone conversation late Monday with White House chief of staff Leon Panetta.The subject is to be taken up at the end of a meeting between Clinton and the congressional leadership on Bosnia. White House press secretary Mike McCurry discouraged speculation that the meeting might be the beginning of budget negotiations between the administration and Congress. He said they would be "talking about default, not budget."

House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Tuesday he had not heard from Clinton about the meeting and added, "I want the president to call and say he's serious and not have any more public relations games. It's time for the president to slow down and take seriously what's happening in government."

Wednesday's meeting comes in the wake of a rare conciliatory note from the head of the Senate Budget Committee in the battle over balancing the federal budget and keeping the government operating.

Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said he would consider lifting the debt ceiling to permit borrowing through November - but not through January as the administration would like.

Domenici's idea gained little support from other GOP leaders.

Dole, R-Kan., and Gingrich, R-Ga., said balked Monday at discussing the debt limit with Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. But an administration official who requested anonymity said Tuesday that Dole made a point of inviting Rubin to Wednesday discussions.

Dole said, "I think there's some feeling among Republicans that Secretary Rubin's been so political, that he doesn't have a lot of credibility up here."