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Friday, September 4, 1998 Published at 05:19 GMT 06:19 UK

Clinton consoles bomb victims

The Clintons and Blairs visited the scene of the bombing

The US President Bill Clinton and the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair visited the exact spot where the Omagh bomb exploded during their visit to the town.

Ireland correspondent Denis Murray assesses the impact of the President's visit
Watched by crowds of thousands who had waited hours to catch a glimpse of the president, they unveiled a plaque in memory of the 28 people who died in the blast.

They then walked through the town's main street, Market Street, which bore the brunt of the explosion.

[ image: The crowds had waited to meet the President]
The crowds had waited to meet the President
Mr Clinton, his wife Hillary - who had earlier placed a wreath at the newly-unveiled plaque - Mr Blair and his wife Cherie met and shook hands with many of the crowd, who were clearly pleased to see them.

They also visited Watterson's drapers shop, where three members of staff had been killed, and laid a wreath.
The BBC's Denis Murray: "Clinton's ratings couldn't be higher"

Earlier, in the town's leisure centre, they met the victims of the Omagh bombing, and the family and friends of those who died.

Clinton warns of troubles ahead

Before arriving in Omagh, Mr Clinton put the issue of decommissioning at the top of his priorities for change in Northern Ireland.

[ image: Lining the street that just weeks ago was devastated by the bomb]
Lining the street that just weeks ago was devastated by the bomb
He said these were: "To decommission weapons of war that are obsolete in a Northern Ireland at peace.

"To move forward with a formation of an executive council, adapt your police force so it has the confidence, respect and support of all the people.

"To end street justice, because defining crime, applying punishment and enforcing the law, must be left to the peoples' elected representatives, the courts and the police.
The BBC's Mark Devenport: "Clinton's visit brought hope"

"To pursue early release for prisoners whose organisations have truly abandoned violence and to help them find a productive, constructive place in society."

Released from hospital

Mr Blair and Mr Clinton spent about an hour talking to people in Omagh.

[ image: Waiting in anticipation]
Waiting in anticipation
They met some of the people who had been injured in the blast, including a group who had been released from hospital for the day especially to meet the president.

Una McGurk was discharged from the Altnagelvin Hospital, in Londonderry, and sisters Laura and Nicola Hamilton, from the Ulster Hospital, at Dundonald, on the outskirts of east Belfast.

Thirty-four people remain in hospital, three - two women and a man - in critical conditions.

[ image: President Clinton bids farewell to Omagh]
President Clinton bids farewell to Omagh
Downing Street later said the Blairs and Clintons were "deeply moved" by their meeting in the gymnasium.

The prime minister's official spokesman said Mr Blair found the courage and determination of the people he met "positively inspirational".

The first person Mr Clinton spoke to was a young girl who had both eyes covered with bandages.

He also met a boy wearing a Leeds United shirt who was unable to shake the president's hand because both his hands were still bandaged.

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