WASHINGTON - President Clinton on Thursday vowed to veto bankruptcy reform legislation that was on the verge of congressional approval.

"I will veto the bill that we understand the Republicans plan to forward to my desk," the President wrote in a strongly worded letter to House and Senate leaders. "But I continue to urge Congress to reconsider and send me a fair bill that meets the test of balance."

The President described the latest version as "seriously flawed" because it fails to address the issues that the White House raised in a letter earlier this month. The administration wants explicit language that would prevent attackers of abortion clinics or those who intimidate patients of such facilities from filing for bankruptcy to escape court penalties. The President complained that Republicans have proposed a narrower restriction that would require a finding of a "willful and malicious threat of serious bodily injury" to bar debts from being discharged. He also cited the bill's failure to eliminate homestead exemptions for the wealthy.

The veto threat may doom the legislation, but Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, downplayed its significance. "It is just confirming their negotiating position," he said. "We are hopeful, but it is still a dicey proposition. It shows how hard it is to get legislation enacted in this partisan atmosphere."

Rep. George W. Gekas, sponsor of the original House bill, accused the President of creating false issues to scuttle the legislation. "It is absolutely laughable," the Pennsylvania Republican said. "If we did nothing, the theme about which he laments remains in place unreformed."

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