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SESSIONS SEES RENO ABOUT FUTURE

Embattled FBI chief William Sessions met Friday with Attorney General Janet Reno to defend himself against charges of serious ethical violations in an attempt to save his job.

After the 30-minute meeting, Justice Department spokesman Carl Stern quoted Ms. Reno as saying, "I'll review the matter."

He confirmed that among the topics discussed was a scathing Justice Department report accusing Sessions of the violations, including abusing the privileges of his office for personal gain.

Stern said the long-awaited meeting, which had been postponed two times, was hurriedly added to Ms. Reno's schedule because Sessions will be out of the country for the next two weeks.

Sessions issued a brief statement confirming he met with Ms. Reno and Deputy Attorney General-designate Philip Heymann "regarding his situation."

He expressed confidence that Ms. Reno "would fully and fairly consider all of the issues" and said it would be inappropriate to comment further.

Ms. Reno has said she would give Sessions, 62, a Republican appointee and former federal judge, a chance to defend himself in person against the charges. A final decision on his fate still could take several months, officials have said.

Only President Clinton can dismiss Sessions, who has served 5 1/2 years of his 10-year term as chief of the agency.

Clinton administration officials privately have been considering possible replacements if Sessions should leave his job, as has been widely expected.

The latest name to surface has been Louis Freeh, a federal judge in New York who formerly served as a Justice Department prosecutor and FBI agent.

Justice Department officials confirmed that Freeh was under consideration and that Ms. Reno had wanted to expand the list of those under review.

They said Ms. Reno was troubled by the close ties between Massachusetts state Judge Richard Stearns, a leading candidate for the job, and Clinton. The officials said Stearns, who has known Clinton since 1968, might run into political problems in getting Senate confirmation.

FBI officials described Freeh, who became a judge last year after his appointment by President George Bush, as a strong candidate, already knowledgeable about the FBI's operations.

As a prosecutor Freeh, handled the so-called "Pizza Connection" case involving Mafia sales of heroin through pizza parlors and also led the investigation into the 1989 mail bombings that killed a federal judge and a black civil rights lawyer.

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