Clinton to call in at No 10

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An extra dimension was added to Tony Blair's international debut later this month with the announcement yesterday that President Bill Clinton would include a stopover in London in his forthcoming trip to Europe, writes Mary Dejevsky. Mr Blair and Mr Clinton had been expected to have their first official encounter on 28 May at celebrations in The Hague to mark the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.

But the White House announced yesterday that Mr Clinton had accepted the Prime Minister's invitation to see him in London - an addition to the President's already concentrated programme. Mr Blair visited Washington as leader of the opposition and the two are said to get on well.

In the United States, Mr Blair is frequently compared to Mr Clinton as a left-leaning leader who has selectively adopted centrist and even right- wing policies. Mr Clinton telephoned his congratulations to Mr Blair soon after his election victory.

Officials in Washington said the stopover in London was provisionally scheduled for the return leg of Mr Clinton's trip, on 29 May. The Irish peace process is expected to figure high on the agenda. This was the issue singled out by Mr Clinton as the one he hoped Mr Blair would tackle as a matter of urgency.