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Clinton meets with troubled politicians

Published Oct. 6, 2005

President Clinton divided Monday between two leaders in political peril, flying to Chicago to offer an effusive tribute to Rep. Dan Rostenkowski and then moving on for a rendezvous in Pittsburgh with Prime Minister John Major of Britain.

Both stops were preceded by some tension. Rostenkowski, a Chicago Democrat who faces a difficult primary election March 15, is the subject of a federal criminal investigation.

Major, who is under pressure to call elections sooner than the April 1997 deadline, has watched his popularity plunge in public opinion polls to 13 percent. British officials have complained that Clinton has contributed to his plight by giving short shrift to what leaders of the two countries have long referred to as their special relationship.

But no signs of friction were evident Monday. In Pittsburgh, Clinton greeted Major at the Air Force Reserve's section of Pittsburgh International Airport and then spent the evening playing gracious host to his Conservative Party counterpart, whose grandfather and father lived in the Pittsburgh area around the turn of the century.

Major recently returned from a visit to Russia, and the two leaders planned to spend the evening discussing, among other topics, the situations there and in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The leaders were to fly to Washington on Monday night aboard Air Force One, and Major was to spend the night in the Lincoln Bedroom, the first foreign leader to stay in the White House as Clinton's guest.

Ever since Clinton took office, British officials have bristled at what they regard as insufficient U.S. attention and even insensitivity, including the decision last month to grant a U.S. entry visa to Gerry Adams, the political leader of the Irish Republican Army.

With Major's Conservative Party trailing the opposition Labor Party by 20 percent in some polls, some have suggested that there might be an element of political calculation in Clinton's slights.

White House officials have privately pointed to Britain's dwindling importance in the world, though aides to Clinton sought to emphasize Monday that relations between the two leaders remained warm and strong.