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Almost... but Clinton keeps everyone waiting

Hillary Clinton came close to admitting defeat this afternoon, telling the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee: "I know that Barack Obama will be a good friend to Israel."

She was reassuring members about the Democratic Party's stance on support for Israel, referring to the president's role. She said she was honoured to consider Mr Obama as a friend - but stopped short of conceding defeat formally in the battle for the nomination as Party leader.

She did say, however: ""I know that Senator Obama understands what is at stake here."

In an earlier speech, Barack Obama switched to election mode in his first speech as the Democratic presidential candidate today.

He used it to assure Jewish leaders he would steadfastly safeguard Israel's security if he is elected..

Hours after securing his party's nomination, Mr Obama told 7,000 people gathered in Washington that rumours and suggestions that he is unfriendly to Israel and to Jewish interests are unfounded.

He cited e-mails "filled with tall tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for president."

Mr Obama told the gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to "let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty scary."

To applause, he said: "I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security."

He also praised Mrs Clinton, who has still to announce publicly that she has accepted defeat and also to reveal what she intends to do next.

Her husband and former president Clinton made a public speech in New York but managed to avoid questions about his her presidential campaign.

Bill Clinton's appearance drew a lot of media attention but he left immediately after addressing the 2008 Corporate Philanthropy Summit.

Mrs Clinton said yesterday that she would consult with advisers in the coming days about the fate of her candidacy.

On a conference call with New York colleagues she said she would be willing to become Mr Obama's running mate if it would help Democrats win the White House.

For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08