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Clinton breezes in to back buddy Blair

Blackpool, Oct. 2 (Reuters): Flanked by a Hollywood star and fresh from a quick hamburger, former US leader Bill Clinton breezed into Britain’s Labour Party conference today to endorse Prime Minister Tony Blair’s stance on Iraq.

Clinton, who stole the show on the last full day of the Labour Party annual conference in the northern seaside resort of Blackpool, applauded Blair’s support of America’s build-up of pressure on President Saddam Hussein.

“I appreciate what the Prime Minister is trying to do in terms of bringing America and the rest of the world to a common position,” he said.

“If he weren’t there to do this, I doubt if anyone else could. So I am very, very grateful.” Clinton said he disagreed with most of his successor President George W. Bush’s policies, but was with him on trying to achieve a tough new UN resolution on Iraq while maintaining the threat of military action as a “last resort”.

“I believe we have to stay at this business until we get all those biological and chemical weapons out of there,” Clinton said, noting that Britain and the United States had acted successfully in Kosovo after Russia blocked UN endorsement.

“We will not allow ourselves to be defeated by tyrants with weapons of mass destruction. That will never happen.”

Hawks in US President George W. Bush’s administration have called for “regime change” in Iraq regardless of whether weapons inspectors return. Blair is treading a more careful line, without ruling out an attack should the big UN powers fail to agree.

Clinton called for “a deadline and no lack of clarity about what Iraq must do” to thwart Saddam’s “bobbing and weaving”.

A personal friend and political ally of the Centre-Left Blair, Clinton flew into Blackpool last night with actor Kevin Spacey. He went to a party with Blair and astonished staff at a local McDonald’s by popping in for a late-night ’burger before his centre-stage speech today.

Blair and Clinton, who have both advocated a political “Third Way” between socialism and capitalism, were lavish in their praise of one another as they both took standing ovations in front of Labour delegates.

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