Blair to guide Clinton along Third Way

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR has told the White House that he will help President Bill Clinton's political fight-back in the United States by joining a special summit of world leaders on developing a "third way" for politics in the Western world.

The Prime Minister has provisionally agreed that he will attend a one-day summit at New York University, on 21 September, to develop ideas for a shift away from the traditional political ideologies of right and left.

It could coincide with the delivery of the report to Congress by Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel, on the Monica Lewinsky affair, when the President might be facing demands for him to face criminal proceedings.

Mr Clinton's advisers believe that playing the role of world statesman at home - with popular leaders such as Mr Blair in attendance - will help to restore confidence in his capacity to continue as President to see out his second and last term in office.

That could help to defuse the calls for further action after the Starr report, and sway Congress to give Mr Clinton the benefit of the doubt over his confession to having had "an inappropriate relationship" with the former White House aide, while denying asking her to lie on oath.

Mr Clinton and Mr Blair have established a close alliance, underlined last week by the speed with which the Prime Minister backed the US bombing raids, in spite of misgivings by the Foreign Office.

That close working relationship will be underlined next week with Mr Clinton's visit to Northern Ireland to show solidarity with the Irish and British governments in the peace process and in defeating the terrorists.

The President will be accompanied by Mr Blair on a visit to Omagh, the town devastated in the bombing by the Real IRA, and it is expected Mr Clinton will warn those associated with the renegade splinter group from the IRA that they will not be allowed to raise funds in America.

Hillary Clinton, the President's wife, is to arrive two days before him for a women's conference in Northern Ireland, which will be hosted by Mo Mowlam, the popular and successful Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Downing Street last night said Mr Blair wanted to attend the conference with Mr Clinton, if it could be fitted into his diary, a few days before Labour's annual party conference in Blackpool.

"He believes the third way does have international resonance. He and Clinton do have a great deal in common in terms of the way forward, and a number of other countries have expressed interest," said a Number Ten source.

The centre-left Opposition party in New Zealand have expressed an interest to attend but there could be a slim attendance from European leaders.

Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor, and Gerhard Schroder, the Blairite leader of the Social Democrats in Germany, are likely to be preoccupied with Germany's forth- coming elections. There also doubts about whether Lionel Jospin, the Socialist French Prime Minister, will attend.

Clinton rallies faithful, page 9