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Friday, February 6, 1998 Published at 23:55 GMT


Blair stands firm with Clinton on scandal
image: [ Monica Lewinsky fights her way through a media scrum ]
Monica Lewinsky fights her way through a media scrum

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has laid his own reputation on the line by giving his strongest backing yet to President Bill Clinton.

[ image: Standing together: Blair and Clinton]
Standing together: Blair and Clinton
Mr Blair said in his own dealings with the American president, he had found him an honest and trustworthy man.

The president's strong record on the economy should overshadow any unproved concerns about his personal life, Mr Blair added.

"I've worked with President Clinton for some nine months as British prime minister. I have found him throughout someone I can trust, someone I can rely upon, someone I am proud to call not just a colleague but a friend," he said.

Mr Clinton joked that the prime minister's support was not important to him before offering his thanks to Mr Blair.

[ image: Kenneth Starr: wants face-to-face talks]
Kenneth Starr: wants face-to-face talks
The president again smiled when asked how he felt about the effect the scandal would have on Monica Lewinsky's life, irrespective of the truth and the outcome.

"That's good," he said, before a long pause. "But at this minute I'm going to stick with my position and not comment."

Bill Clinton refused to be drawn futher on the Lewinsky scandal
Throughout the news conference, Mr Clinton refused to add to his previous denial of both the charges against him.

But he said he had never considered resigning his post because of the allegations of sex and cover-up.

"Immunity deal already agreed to"

Meanwhile, Monica Lewinsky's lawyer claimed he had a deal in writing from independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr which secured her immunity from prosecution for perjury. He also vowed to go to court if necessary to enforce it.

Mr Ginsburg also alleged that Mr Starr was continuing to press her to make statements about her relationship with President Clinton that "are not true".

Mr Starr issued a statement on Thursday saying that there would be no immunity deal unless Ms Lewinsky agreed to face-to-face questioning in court so prosecutors could determine if she was telling the truth. He also wanted her to undergo lie detector tests.

[ image: William Ginsburg: no basis in fact]
William Ginsburg: no basis in fact
Mr Starr's office was also said to have given her a deadline of 1500 (GMT) on Friday to make her decision or face prosecution.

He wants her to testify about allegations that she had an affair with Clinton when she was a White House intern and whether Bill Clinton asked her to lie about it. The president has strongly denied the allegations but has declined to describe his relationship with Ms Lewinsky.

But Mr Ginsburg later said he was not aware of any deadline and claimed the conditions that Mr Starr was demanding had already been agreed to.

"Judge Starr has made an agreement to grant Monica Lewinsky complete immunity and he sent Ms Lewinsky a letter confirming the grant of immunity," Ginsburg said. "Under that agreement, Judge Starr has the right to meet face-to-face with Miss Lewinsky at any time for as long as he wishes to meet."

Allegations keep on coming

Mr Clinton's personal secretary on Friday denied reports she had been pressure by the president to make a false statement to Mr Starr.

A lawyer for Betty Currie issued a statement refuting the claim completely.

"I want to be absolutely clear: to the extent there is any implication or slightest suggestion that Mrs Currie believed that the president, or anyone else, tried to influence her recollection, that is absolutely false and a mis-characterisation of the facts," it said.

White House spokesman Mike McCurry also made an angry attack at the continuing leaks emerging from the officially secret grand jury testimony.

"This is a very dangerous environment now," he said.

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