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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 19:35 GMT 20:35 UK
US to award Blair for 'leadership'
Tony Blair (left) and George W Bush
Tony Blair has stood by President Bush over Iraq
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair will become the first non-American to receive a prestigious award for services to the US.

He is to receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honour for International Leadership for his role in the war against terror.

William Fugazy, chairman of the awards committee, said Mr Blair was selected for his "steadfast support" for America since the 11 September attacks in 2001.

"Under Tony Blair's leadership the relationship between the United States and Britain has been strengthened to the benefit of all nations," he said.

Mr Blair cannot make the 17th annual awards ceremony in May, but Mr Fugazy said New York Governor George Pataki may visit Britain to present the medal in person.

The Ellis Island Medals of Honour were created in 1986 to honour, as the website says, "the many ancestral groups who through struggle, sacrifice and success, helped build this great nation".

It is the first year there has been an award for international leadership.

Congressional medal

The medals have previously been presented to "outstanding Americans" who have distinguished themselves as citizens of the United States.

Past winners include former President Ronald Reagan, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, boxer Muhammad Ali and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

This year's winners also include director Martin Scorsese and singer Michael Bolton.

Mr Blair has enjoyed huge popularity in the US since 11 September, bolstered by his stance alongside President George W Bush over the war in Iraq.

He is also due to become the first Briton since Sir Winston Churchill to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

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