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WHITEWATER PANEL WILL SUBPOENA STARR

New questions are being raised about Hillary Rodham Clinton's legal work for a failed Arkansas thrift owned by the Clintons' Whitewater partner.

Meanwhile, the Republican chairman of the Senate Whitewater Committee reluctantly agreed Thursday to subpoena the Whitewater independent prosecutor - not the FBI - for an FBI analysis that is said to show the first lady's fingerprints on her former law firm's billing records discovered in the White House residence.The decision by Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., followed one of the nastiest partisan exchanges to date in the panel's yearlong hearings. It started when D'Amato disclosed that independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr had turned down the panel's recent request for the FBI analysis of the Rose Law Firm billing records. The next step is to subpoena the FBI, D'Amato said.

Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, the committee's senior Democrat, insisted that it should be Starr, who is conducting a separate criminal investigation, and not the FBI.

Questions about the first lady's work for Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, the failed S&L owned by Whitewater partner James McDougal, have intensified since January, when the long-sought legal billing records turned up. Recent evidence assembled by Starr's prosecutors calls into question her sworn account of a meeting she had with McDougal a decade ago.

In Little Rock Thursday, the jury in the federal fraud case against McDougal, his ex-wife and Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker began deliberating, weighing the word of the president against that of a small-town felon. Deliberations resumed Friday morning and will be suspended for the weekend if no verdict is returned today.

Hillary Clinton has maintained since the 1992 campaign that she met with McDougal in April 1985 to discuss an overdue bill from her law firm.

But Gary Bunch, the former president at a McDougal-owned bank that owed the money, testified Thursday that the bill was paid off in the fall of 1984, well before Hillary Clinton's meeting with McDougal. Bunch has said he was interviewed by the FBI about the matter recently.

Bunch also said it was McDougal who decided to pay the $5,800 bill in 1984. That means McDougal would have known it had been paid when he met with Hillary Clinton in April 1985 - and could have told her the bill was no longer overdue.