Responding to Mr Clinton's welcome on his first official visit to Washington, Mr Blair said he wanted a diplomatic solution to the crisis, "but the success or failure of diplomacy rests on Saddam. If he fails to respond, then he knows that the threat of force is there and it is real".
Mr Clinton said the United States and Britain "will stand against those who defy the will of the international community by maintaining stability in the Persian Gulf". But he indicated that he was still agonising over a decision to use force and tried to dispel growing speculation that the US might be preparing to try to topple the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein.
Citing US policy, which states that political assassinations are not in US foreign policy interests, Mr Clinton said: "Our interest is in preventing Saddam Hussein from building biological, chemical, nuclear weapons capability [and] the missiles to deliver such weapons ... that's where the authority from the United Nations resolutions rests. In the end, it is up to Saddam Hussein." He added: "It is not up to the rest of us."
Earlier, Mr Blair had used a blitz of appearances on US television breakfast shows to underline Britain's support for the US over Iraq. There must, he said, "be a real threat of force and the use of force if necessary".
Mr Blair later announced that the Queen was awarding the veteran comedian Bob Hope, who is 94, an honorary knighthood "for services to wartime entertainment"
Asked about yesterday's report in The Independent that air strikes were due to commence in 12 days' time unless Iraq backed down, Mr Blair said it was "highly speculative", but he did not deny it.
Obtaining a consensus in the UN for the renewed use of force is proving difficult, with China, Russia, Egypt and most of the Arab states opposed.
Meanwhile, questioned by reporters Mr Clinton again denied having a relationship with former White House trainee Monica Lewinsky on a day when her lawyer, William Ginsburg, hinted strongly that matters in the case might be coming to a head.
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