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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Major Has Rare Success With Clinton in U.S.

LONDON -- By the standards of a government that can seem to do little right lately, British Prime Minister John Major's U.S. trip to patch up relations with President Bill Clinton can be counted as a rare success.


Beset by mounting political difficulties at home, it was important for Major to put aside the distraction of disagreements with Washington over Bosnia and Northern Ireland.


As Major flew back to London on Wednesday from the 48-hour visit, his aides felt he had achieved this goal.


Fresh arguments could still erupt over Bosnia -- Major would like Clinton to commit U.S. ground troops if necessary before an overall peace plan is in place -- but for the moment the two capitals are once again singing from the same hymn sheet.


This was underscored by the announcement of an Anglo-American initiative to send a joint civil planning mission to the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.


"I think there is no doubt now that policy on Bosnia is back 'in synch,'" Major said in Washington on Tuesday. "There was a period last year when it wasn't ... but I think now we see the problems and the opportunities in pretty much the same way."


On Northern Ireland, too, Major feels he now has Clinton's full backing for his refusal to make overtures to Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, until its leader, Gerry Adams, has renounced violence.


But a brace of foreign-policy clarifications hardly amounts to a renaissance of the special Anglo-American relationship that flourished during the Cold War.


In the words of the Washington Post, what is most special about the current state of U.S.-British relations is the symbolic lengths the Clinton administration felt it had to go to this week to prove its specialness, with Major becoming the first foreign leader to stay overnight in the Clinton White House.


Anglo-American ties now are, however, back on an even keel, even if Clinton and Major lack the chemistry that marked the Reagan-Thatcher years. But they do not obviously merit the word special.