Britain was ‘all in favour of whacking’ Osama Bin Laden at least nine months before 9/11.
The readiness to target the Al Qaeda chief was mentioned in a briefing to Tony Blair ahead of a dinner with Bill Clinton.
The then-PM’s foreign affairs adviser Sir John Sawers laid out points the ex-US president ‘may raise or which you might want to ask about’.
Sir John briefed on the US’s likely response to the bombing of USS Cole, which killed 17 US sailors, off Yemen and discussed possible air strikes.
Sir John said the US ‘won’t launch strikes until they have a smoking gun.’ He added: ‘We’re all in favour of whacking [Bin Laden], but need a bit of notice and a chance to influence the timing.’ Bin Laden was eventually killed by the US in 2011.
Sir Tony had a famously close relationship with Mr Clinton, whose presidency ended in January 2001, and the files also reveal No 10’s initial nerves about how to handle his successor George Bush.
Soon after Mr Bush’s election, Britain’s ambassador to the US Sir Christopher Meyer warned of a potential ‘cultural clash’, the files show.
He wrote to Sir John and Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell about a conversation with US trade representative Bob Zoellick ‘who spent most of dinner giving advice on how the prime minister should handle Bush.’
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