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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Nixon 'too drunk' for Cold War crisis chat
Former US President Richard Nixon was too drunk to answer the phone when Britain's prime minister rang him at the height of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, according to newly-released records.

Richard Nixon (left) and Henry Kissinger (right)
Henry Kissinger was Richard Nixon's right-hand man

Transcripts of the phone conversations of the president's close adviser, Henry Kissinger, show him trying to fend off a UK request to discuss the crisis as it sucked in Cold War rivals, Russia and America.

"Can we tell them no?" Mr Kissinger asks his assistant. "When I talked to the president, he was loaded."

Brent Scowcroft, Mr Kissinger's assistant, replies: "We could tell him the president is not available and perhaps he can call you."

Mr Kissinger said the president would talk to British PM Edward Heath the next morning.

Turbulent chapter

The conversation, which took place on the night of 11 October, 1973, is included in over 20,000 pages of transcripts cleared for release from the archives after over three decades.

The president has approved this thing... although I'm not quite sure he knew what he was approving
Henry Kissinger

They span the period January 1969 to August 1974 - a turbulent chapter in American history featuring war in Vietnam, detente with China, conflict in the Middle East and eventually, the Watergate scandal that terminated the Nixon presidency.

Mr Kissinger held the joint offices of Secretary of State and National Security Adviser in President Nixon's cabinet.

Other revelations in the transcripts include an apparent reference to an American role in the coup against the socialist government of President Salvador Allende of Chile.

"Well we didn't - as you know - our hand doesn't show on this one, though," Mr Kissinger told President Nixon on 16 September 1973.

"We didn't do it. I mean we helped them," he said, adding that a person or institution whose name is deleted from the transcript had "created the conditions as great as possible".

Bombing the Capitol

The transcripts also uncover fissures behind the statesman-like facade the politicians presented to the public.

Asked if he thought President Nixon was still rational, Mr Kissinger answered, "It's pretty rough."

He told an aide the president had approved a certain proposal, although "I'm not quite sure he knew what he was approving."

In another conversation, Mr Kissinger complains to an aide that the president's tough remarks on Israel could "start a war".

The aide attempts to allay his fears, saying the president was "just unwinding".

To assure him Mr Nixon did not always mean what he said, he recounts how the president had recently asked for the briefcase containing the controls to America's nuclear arsenal.

"For what?" asked Mr Kissinger.

"He is going to drop it on the Hill," said the aide. "What I am saying is, don't take him too seriously."

The Capitol Hill in Washington was then the scene of impeachment hearings against President Nixon.

Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency in 1974 and died 20 years later.

Henry Kissinger now works as a foreign policy consultant.

Eavesdropping on the White House
24 Oct 03 |  Americas
Nixon's final hours
27 Jul 01 |  Entertainment
Kissinger accused over Chile plot
11 Sep 01 |  Americas

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