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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK
Blair bolsters US campaign
Smoke from ruins of World Trade Center drifts over Manhattan
Europe backs "appropriate" US retaliation
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is in the US for his first meeting with President Bush since last week's hijack jet attacks on New York and Washington.

Mr Blair has played a leading role in building an international consensus supporting President Bush's coalition against "global terrorism".

President Bush is to make a rare address to both houses of Congress on Thursday, in which he is expected to call for patience and resolve to defeat those responsible for the attacks which left more than 5,000 dead.

Mr Blair's first stop was New York, where he saw for himself the devastation caused by the suicide attacks, before attending a memorial service for up to 300 British victims.

He later arrived in Washington for a dinner with President Bush before attending the president's address to Congress, seated alongside the First Lady, Laura Bush.

Police and fire tribute

During Mr Blair's New York visit he paid tribute to those who lost their lives in coping with the attack on the World Trade Center.


This is not the Gulf War coalition, where we all mobilise our military forces and march off to war after 100 days

Condoleezza Rice
US national security adviser

At a memorial service at St Thomas' Episcopal Church in Manhattan, Mr Blair said that amid the shock and anger, the bonds between Britain and the US had become even stronger.

He said he had come to offer his support to all who had lost loved ones in the attacks.

Nearly 100 British citizens have been confirmed dead in the 11 September attacks although final death toll is expected to be closer to 300.

Cheney absent

Mr Bush is expected to use the speech to outline his administration's case against the Saudi-born Islamic militant, Osama Bin Laden who America blames for the attacks.

Blair and Schroeder
Blair and Schroeder: Unswerving support for US
Vice-President Dick Cheney will not attend, but will remain in a secure location to look after "the continuation of important government issues" in the event of further terrorist attacks, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Mr Bush said on Wednesday that he was looking forward "to the opportunity to explain to the American people who would do this to our great country - and why."

He is expected to call for patience and resolve in what is likely to be a complex and sustained campaign.

But his National Security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, said there would be no announcement of any specific military action.

'Effective measures needed'

As Mr Blair was arriving in New York, the US and the European Union signed an agreement to work in partnership to fight terrorism.

The two sides committed themselves to co-operation in a range of issues, including law enforcement, air security and immigration controls.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Blair and French President Jacques Chirac reaffirmed their commitment to join the US in military retaliation if - as Mr Chirac put it - the measures were "appropriate and effective."

Chirac (left) greeted by Mayor Guiliani
Chirac was the first foreign leader to visit New York since the disaster
The two men met shortly before European justice and home affairs ministers agreed to sweeping legal reforms to help in the fight against terrorism.

These include a European warrant for search and arrest that would obviate the need for extradition proceedings, and an EU-wide definition of terrorism.

In an interview with BBC News Online, Mr Blair said the West was still carefully considering the measures it would take.

But he said every other leader he had spoken to understood the necessity "not to flinch from action".

President Khatami
Khatami: Solidarity with how West is tackling crisis
In particular, he said he had just completed a "remarkable" conversation with Iranian President Mohammed Khatami.

"It was a conversation I could not have imagined happening a few weeks ago," Mr Blair said.

"It was a remarkable conversation, not only because he has given us his full solidarity in outrage at what happened in the USA, and strong condemnation of terrorism, but also [in] how we are tackling this."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ben Brown in New York
"There were also many relatives at the mourning service"
The BBC's Andrew Marr and Stephen Sackur
discuss Britain's role in the international coalition
See also:

20 Sep 01 | Americas
We share grief, Blair tells America
20 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair targets world terrorism
20 Sep 01 | Americas
Chirac: Fighting terror a priority
19 Sep 01 | Europe
Germany backs military action
18 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair embarks on diplomatic offensive
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan - a tough military option
18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
China demands US attack evidence
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