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The BBC's Toby Sealey
"An opportunity for this outgoing President to end on a high note"
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BBC NI political editor Stephen Grimason
"There is likely to be pressure on more than just Sinn Fein on arms - Tony Blair may also be pressed on policing"
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Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 18:28 GMT
Clinton meets Queen on UK visit
The Clintons and the Queen outside Buckingham Palace
The Clintons posed for pictures with the Queen
Bill Clinton has flown out of the UK at the end of what was probably his final foreign visit as US President.

Mr Clinton had tea with the Queen during the last day of his UK visit.

He then gave a keynote speech on globalisation before leaving Birmingham Airport on Air Force One, the presidential jumbo jet.

After a two-day mission to help further the Northern Ireland peace process Mr Clinton spent Wednesday night at the Prime Minister's country residence Chequers.

Speaking outside Chequers before his departure by helicopter for London on Thursday, he said he thought his successor George W Bush would continue his country's special relationship with the UK.

He said: "I can't imagine anybody who wouldn't do that."

He also urged the American people to put the "rancour" of the election battle behind them and support President-elect George W Bush.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair
Happy times: Clinton thinks special relationship between US and UK will continue
Mr Clinton, his wife Senator Hillary Clinton and their daughter Chelsea, had dinner with Mr Blair and his wife, Cherie, at Chequers on Wednesday night.

After arriving in London, the Clintons strolled through Hyde Park to Serpentine Road, where Mr Clinton shook hands with well-wishers from a large crowd.

Mr and Mrs Clinton spent 20 minutes chatting to the Queen, over tea and coffee, in Buckingham Palace's audience room.

Chelsea was given a private tour of the Buckingham Palace state apartments by the Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, Christopher Lloyd.

Mr Clinton also visited London's trendy Portobello Road, stopping off at a pub after looking around antiques shops.

He shared bar snacks with secret service men while he drank a half-pint of organic lager and chatted with some other American drinkers at the Portobello Gold pub.

'No turning back'

Mr Clinton later flew on to Warwick University to give a keynote speech covering globalisation.

The outgoing president had left Northern Ireland on Wednesday night after telling a crowd of 7,000 people in Belfast there was "no turning back" from the road to peace they had chosen.

The president, on his third visit to Belfast, had earlier held talks with Northern Ireland's political leaders amid tension over the direction of the peace process.

Mr Clinton promised US anti-terrorism officials would work closely with Dublin and London to counter the threat of dissident republicans opposed to the Good Friday Agreement.

During the talks at Stormont, Mr Clinton urged the leaders to find movement in the deadlocked peace process.

Sinn Fein are continuing a legal challenge to First Minister David Trimble's decision to ban its ministers from taking part in cross-border bodies because of a failure of the IRA to co-operate with the decommissioning body.

Symbol of peace

At the same time, uncertainty surrounds the future of policing reform, with neither Sinn Fein nor the nationalist SDLP yet backing controversial legislation which will change the face of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Mr Clinton sought to underline his message that the peace process had to be bigger than narrow short-term difficulties in his speech at Belfast's newly-opened Odyssey Arena, a multi-million-pound venue regarded as a highly visible symbol of the peace process.

Appealing directly to the people of Northern Ireland he said: "I believe in the peace you are building and that there can be no turning back."

There must be normalisation of the security situation and all arms must be put beyond use to "reduce fear and mistrust," he added.

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See also:

14 Dec 00 | Europe
Clinton backs globalisation
14 Dec 00 | Education
President's visit a boost for Warwick
13 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Clinton's final push for peace
13 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Hardline unionists 'excluded' by Clinton
13 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Women know 'there's no going back'
12 Dec 00 | Europe
Clinton begins final Irish visit
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