Leading Article: Welcome back to the fray, Mr President

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The Independent Culture
PRESIDENT CLINTON is to hold a news conference today, his first for more than a year. He returns to the fray an older and wiser man, with his extraordinary resilience lending a kind of dignity to the mere fact of his survival in office. His audiences, the journalists who will ask him questions, the American people and the wider world, all see him differently now. His image is stripped of all illusion, and yet he remains popular and can still inspire a kind of weary, unambitious hope.

The year spent in the Lewinsky morass has done more damage abroad than at home, and so it is primarily to America's responsibilities in the world that the President should turn for the last 22 months of his term. With the peace process in Northern Ireland poised again on the edge, the White House's full attention could once again play a decisive role. With Nato - and its new central European members - on the verge of military action in Serbia, Mr Clinton's skills of diplomacy and rhetoric are needed. And with a newly assertive euro bloc engaged in trade skirmishes with the US, his commitment to free trade needs to stand up against the American instinct for protection.

Welcome back, Mr President, there is work to be don