Sorry, Mr Heath - the President is too drunk to take your call

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The Independent US

The Middle East was ablaze, and the nuclear superpowers, America and the Soviet Union, were on the brink of confrontation. But the president of the United States was too drunk to take a call from his ally, Edward Heath, the prime minister of Britain.

The Middle East was ablaze, and the nuclear superpowers, America and the Soviet Union, were on the brink of confrontation. But the president of the United States was too drunk to take a call from his ally, Edward Heath, the prime minister of Britain.

Today, such a situation could not arise between Tony Blair and the teetotal George W Bush. But on 11 October 1973, when a Watergate-beleaguered Richard Nixon was in the Oval Office, it did. Newly released transcripts of the phone conversations of Henry Kissinger, then both secretary of state and national security adviser, reveal the White House received a call at 8 pm from the office of Mr Heath.

"Can we tell them no?" Kissinger asked Brent Scowcroft, his assistant, who told him of the urgent request. "When I talked to the president [whose fondness for the bottle is no secret] he was loaded."

Scowcroft replied: "We could tell him the president is not available and perhaps he can call you."

The British were told he would be available next morning. With the Yom Kippur War raging, and Opec set to impose its first oil embargo, it was enough to drive any leader to drink.

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