Matthew Tempest, political correspondent, in Blackpool
Wednesday October 2, 2002
Bill Clinton today broke ranks with the US president, George Bush, to demand a UN solution to the Iraq crisis.
Speaking at the Labour party conference he praised Tony Blair as the only man capable of leading the international community, and launched a scathing attack on his successor in the White House.
He entered and exited to rock-and-roll style hysteria from delegates and a standing ovation from the British cabinet.
As well as Iraq, the former president spoke at length on the problems facing Africa, relations between Europe and the US, the Good Friday agreement - and his own personal affection for the UK.
But in the 50-minute speech - which unquestionably overshadowed even the address from the prime minister yesterday - Iraq was the central issue.
Mr Clinton told delegates - and TV audiences around the world carrying the appearance - that Mr Blair was the key link between Mr Bush's isolationism and the rest of the world.
He said: "I appreciate what the prime minister is trying to do in terms of bringing America and the rest of the world to a common position. If he weren't there to do this, I doubt if anyone else could. So I am very, very grateful."
"I support the efforts of the prime minister and President Bush to get tougher with Saddam Hussein.
But he pointedly added: "I strongly support the prime minister's determination if at all possible to act through the UN."
He continued: "The world ought to show up and show we meant it in 1991 when we said this man should not have a biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programme, and we can do that through the UN."
Mr Clinton said that while terrorists and weapons of mass destruction would never defeat our societies there was a need to deal with them through partnership - in bodies such as the UN.
He said: "Of course we have to stand against weapons of mass destruction but if we can we have to do it in the context of building the international institutions that in the end we will have to rely on to guarantee the peace and security of the world and the human rights of all people everywhere."
But he warned that international bodies were still only "becoming" the force for good they could be.
The action in Kosovo had had to be taken without a UN resolution because the Russians had failed to support a strike against the Serbs because of their historic friendship, he pointed out. The US did not contribute enough to international institutions and had to learn it could not impose its will on the rest of the world.
He said: "You can't have an integrated world and have your say all the time America can lead the world towards that but we can't dominate and run the world in that direction."
The US and Britain and Europe had to work together, he said, adding that he had been "profoundly grateful" of the support he received from the UK during his term of office.
"Whenever we were working together the outcome was likely to be better," he said."I am profoundly grateful for Britain's involvement with the United States and others in diplomatic efforts and, when necessary, in military ones."
On Nothern Ireland, he said: "I would like to say to the people of the land I have loved so well: keep your eyes on the prize and don't turn back.
"Whatever America did for Britain in Northern Ireland in the peace process, you repaid one hundred fold in the aftermath of September 11.
Mr Clinton, who was the conference's guest international speaker, told delegates: "We will not allow ourselves to be defeated by tyrants with weapons of mass destruction. That will not happen.
"But we could reduce the future that we can build for our children if we respond to the challenges in the wrong way.
"Whatever we do we have to have a care for the security of our nation, the character of our people and the future of our children.
"We must respond in a way that is consistent with the larger obligation we all have to build a more integrated global community.
"Of course we have to stand against weapons of mass destruction but if we can we have to do it in the context of building the international institutions that in the end we will have to depend upon to guarantee the peace and security of the world and the human rights of all people everywhere."
Mr Clinton told the conference: "I agree with the many Republicans and Democrats in America and many here in Britain who want to go through the United Nations to bring the whole of world opinion and to bring us all together to offer one more chance to the inspections.
"Saddam Hussein as usual is bobbing and weaving. We should call his bluff. The UN should call for a complete and unrestricted set of inspections with a new resolution.
"If the inspections go forward, and I hope they will, perhaps we can avoid a conflict.
"In any case the world ought to show up and show we meant it in 1991 when we said this man should not have a biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programme, and we can do that through the UN."
In a wide-ranging speech on foreign affairs which in itself shamed the lack of knowledge of international affairs of his successor, Mr Clinton also said he disagreed with Mr Bush on Kyoto, the budget, health policy, and tax cuts-- even though he benefited from them himself as a "wealthy American".
He also earned brownie points from the audience for acknowledging that America had backed - and armed - Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.
He told delegates he wished there were events like the British party conferences in the US.
He paid tribute to Gordon Brown's speech, but had the highest praise for Mr Blair' speech yesterday.
"When the prime minister spoke yesterday I thought to myself 'I hope I'll be able to give a speech like that when I grow up'."
Mr Blair was greeted by a standing ovation as he introduced Mr Clinton as a "friend of the Labour party".
The prime minister praised the former president as "thoughtful and wise", adding: "He was my partner when he was in office. He is my friend."
As the applause died down, Mr Clinton introduced himself to the packed hall into traditional Labour fashion: "Clinton, Bill, Arkansas CLP [Constituency Labour Party]".
Greeted by cheers and applause by delegates in Blackpool, Mr Clinton said he had accepted the invitation because he felt "deeply indebted" to this country.
"It's flattering when someone who no longer has a shred of power is asked what he thinks," he quipped.
"It's also fun to be in a place where our crowd is still in office."
Watched by his friend, the Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey, Mr Clinton told conference: "I accepted when Prime Minister Blair asked me to come because he and Cherie are old friends and because I love this country and feel deeply indebted to it."
¡¤ Security staff bundled a man out of the Labour party conference hall today after he climbed on stage with Mr Clinton. The man mounted the rostrum as Mr Clinton soaked up applause following a rousing conference address which was warmly received by delegates. He spoke to the former president before apparently producing a camera and attempting to photograph himself with Mr Clinton, who remained calm throughout.
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