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Dole could head 9/11 commission

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Sen. Bob Dole is among those being considered to replace Henry Kissinger as chairman of the September 11 commission as the White House tries to move quickly to fill the position, an administration official said Sunday.

Kissinger resigned Friday to avoid questions about a possible conflict of interest regarding his ties to several organizations and public figures.

President Bush named Kissinger to lead the 10-member commission November 27, dropping his long-standing opposition to an independent probe of the September 11 attacks when he signed a broad intelligence authorization bill that created the panel.

The commission will be composed of five Republicans and five Democrats.

In a letter to the president, Kissinger said he was prepared to submit all relevant financial information to the White House and to an independent review and to other members of the joint commission.

He said that while he thought specific potential conflicts could be resolved, he felt the controversy would move to his own consulting firm, Kissinger Associates.

Liquidation of the firm would delay significantly the beginning of the commission's work, so he decided to resign, he said.

The concern was that questions of conflict of interest might have been raised because the former secretary of state serves on the boards of several organizations and is chairman of some.

He had agreed to provide the families of September 11 victims with lists of his clients but would not give other details about them.

A senior administration official said Kissinger told White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card that if he revealed his client list, he might be forced to sever ties with those clients.

Some had criticized Kissinger's appointment, saying he was too close to powerful national and international figures to be independent. In an editorial published November 29, The New York Times suggested the White House chose him "to contain an investigation it has long opposed."

Kissinger's resignation came the day after former Sen. George Mitchell announced he was stepping down from the commission, also over potential conflicts of interest.

Mitchell, who was to be vice chairman of the independent board, said he didn't want to sever ties with his law firm and that the commission's work would take too much time.

Congressional Democrats chose former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, to replace him.

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