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Condit breaks silence, but doubts remain

By Sridhar Krishnaswami

WASHINGTON, AUG. 24. More than four months after the disappearance of the intern, Ms. Chandra Levy, the Democratic Congressman, Mr. Gary Condit finally broke his silence to say that he had a ``very close relationship'' with the 24-year-old woman.

Mr. Condit, in his first interview on the subject to Ms. Connie Chung of ABC News, refused to answer specifically if he had had a sexual relationship with Ms. Levy neither did he express any regret for his involvement with her. ``I have answered every question truthfully. That's what you're supposed to do when you're co-operating with the police,'' Mr. Condit said. The interview which took place in the Congressman's hometown district of Modesto, California had all the elements of high drama as many were hoping that something dramatic might come out of it.

In Washington, authorities were quick to take on Mr. Condit's assertion that he had answered all questions truthfully. While the police have all along said that Mr. Condit was been a suspect, they also point out that it took the Democratic Congressman three interviews with the police to finally say that he did indeed have an affair with Ms Levy. ``It took us three interviews and a lot of effort to get as far as we got,'' was the response of the Deputy Chief of the D.C. police. And Mr. Levy's family lawyer also disputed Mr. Condit's assertion. ``He came forward only after pressure began to build and the facts of his relationship became public,'' Mr. Billy Martin said.

In the course of the 30-minute interview, Mr. Condit was repeatedly asked if he had had a sexual relationship with Ms. Levy. His response was: ``I have been married 34 years. I have not been a perfect man. I have made mistakes in my life. But out of respect for my family, out of a specific request by the Levy family, it is best that I not get into the details of the relationship''. But when asked if he had killed Ms. Levy, Mr. Condit replied, ``I did not''.

Media reports have suggested that Mr.Condit has had several affairs. At least one airline stewardess has stepped forward to talk about her relationship with the Congressman. In the case of Ms. Levy, the Congressman said the two had met in October last; she had visited his apartment several times; that he was not in love with her, but liked her very much. Mr. Condit denied that one of his rules was that women having affairs with him should not carry any identification on them. The airline stewardess, Ms. Anne Marie Smith, had claimed thus and Ms. Levy too had described the ``strict rules'' while confiding to her aunt. The Congressman also denied that he and Ms. Levy talked about a future that included getting married and having children.

Mr. Condit has broken his silence even as is speculation about his political future in November 2002. Some say his political goose has been cooked; whereas others see this as his personal business and predict that he will emerge ``successfully'' just like the former President, Mr. Bill Clinton did after the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. But the situations are very different and Mr. Condit is not Mr. Clinton by any stretch of imagination. Ironically, Mr. Condit, a Blue Dog Democrat, had criticised Mr. Clinton for not being forthcoming in the days after the Lewinsky story broke.

Mr. Condit timed his television interview to coincide with a letter he has sent to his constituents where he only acknowledges his ``share of mistakes'' but stopping short of saying whether he had an affair with Ms. Levy. ``I hope our relationship is strong enough to endure all this,'' the Democratic lawmaker told his constituents.

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