Former representative Robert L. Barr Jr. cannot bring a $30 million defamation suit against former president Bill Clinton, Democratic political adviser James Carville and publisher Larry Flynt, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday.

The Georgia Republican alleged that the three conspired to smear him by publishing information about his private life as retaliation for his outspoken role in the impeachment proceedings against Clinton.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Barr failed to make his conspiracy claim against Clinton and Carville within the three years permitted by law.

As to Flynt, the panel ruled that Barr's claim is barred by the First Amendment because he failed to show that the information printed in a one-time issue called "The Flynt Report" was false or was published with knowledge that it was false.

Flynt's article included allegations by Barr's former wife that the congressman had an affair in the mid-1980s. It also said that in contrast to his public opposition to abortion, he drove his wife to a clinic to have an abortion performed.

Barr alleged Carville gave Flynt Barr's FBI files and other documents as part of a smear campaign, but Flynt denied it.

Barr served four terms in Congress before losing a primary campaign in 2002.