WASHINGTON - A digital signatures bill could be on President Clinton's desk by Friday, the House Commerce Committee chairman said last week.

"We are very close to a final agreement, and if everyone continues to work together in good faith, I think we can have a bill to the White House before Memorial Day," Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr., R-Va., told lawmakers trying to reconcile House and Senate versions of the legislation, which would legalize contracts signed online.

Negotiators met Thursday to discuss compromise proposals, delivering opening statements but casting no votes.

Meanwhile, committee staffers worked behind the scenes to find a middle ground between a Democratic proposal focused on adding consumer protections and a Republican offer that would allow electronic transmittal of a wider range of consumer disclosures.

In a statement last week, Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said that the administration was disappointed with the Republican offer.

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