NEW YORK - FORMER US president Bill Clinton has defended his record on counter-terrorism and accused the Bush administration of ignoring the threat from Osama bin Laden until the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.
In a TV interview aired last Sunday, Mr Clinton said he had tried to have the Al-Qaeda leader killed and was attacked for his efforts by the same people who are now criticising him for not having done enough.
'That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now,' Mr Clinton told Fox News Sunday.
'They ridiculed me for trying,' said Mr Clinton, who had approved a 1998 missile strike on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan after the bombing of the US embassy in Nigeria.
He said some of Republican President George W. Bush's allies, who now say Mr Clinton did not do enough to stop Osama, had accused him of being 'too obsessed' with the terrorist leader while he was in office.
Mr Bush also 'downgraded' the role of former White House adviser on counter-terrorism Richard Clarke and failed to focus on Osama before the Sept 11 attacks, Mr Clinton said.
Republicans and Democrats are actively sparring over national security in their campaigns for the Nov 7 congressional elections.
Mr Clinton said he had 'worked hard' to try to kill Osama. 'We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody's gotten since.'
He accused Fox host Chris Wallace of a 'conservative hit job' and asked: 'I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, 'Why didn't you do anything about the Cole? I want to know how many people you asked, 'Why did you fire Dick Clarke?''
He was referring to the USS Cole, attacked by terrorists off the coast of Yemen in 2000, and to Mr Clarke.
He told Mr Wallace: 'And you got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever, but I had responsibility for trying to protect this country.
'I tried and I failed to get Osama. I regret it, but I did try and I did everything I thought I responsibly could.'
The Fox interview took place during the second annual Clinton Global Initiative summit on humanitarian and environmental issues in New York last week.
Mr Wallace said on Sunday that he was surprised by Mr Clinton's 'conspiratorial view' of 'a very non-confrontational question, 'Did you do enough to connect the dots and go after Al-Qaeda'?'
The interview was taped last Friday during Mr Clinton's three-day Global Initiative conference.
On NBC's Meet the Press, also taped last Friday and aired on Sunday, Mr Clinton told interviewer Tim Russert that the biggest problem confronting the world today is 'the illusion that our differences matter more than our common humanity'.
'That's what's driving the terrorism,' he said.
'It's not just that there's an unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri can convince young Sunni Arab men - and some women - who have despairing conditions in their lives, that they get a one-way ticket to heaven in a hurry if they kill a lot of innocent people who don't share their reality.'
'And you got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever, but I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it, but I did try and I did everything I thought I responsibly could.'
MR CLINTON, to Fox News host Chris Wallace