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Former President Bill Clinton defended his controversial pardon of fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich in a letter Saturday to the New York Times.

Clinton said he pardoned Rich only after concluding that Rich's case should have been handled in a civil rather than criminal court.

He nevertheless said he fashioned the pardon to allow for the pursuit of possible civil charges.

Clinton noted that under the terms of the pardon, Rich was required to waive all legal defenses he might have planned to use if the government sued him.

He cited eight reasons for granting the pardon. Five were related to his conclusion that the case was handled improperly when federal prosecutors filed criminal charges in 1983.

Two more cited his belief that the pardon was backed by a deputy attorney general and several well-known Washington lawyers.

Clinton reiterated denials that political contributions led to his decision. "There was absolutely no quid pro quo," he said.

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