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Giuliani Defends Bill Clinton After Heated Interview, Says Focus Should Remain on Terrorism

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani defended Bill Clinton on Wednesday over the former president's counterterrorism efforts, saying recent criticism on preventing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is wrong.

Political bickering over which president — Clinton or George W. Bush — missed more opportunities to prevent the attacks has been escalating since Clinton gave a combative interview on "Fox News Sunday" in which he defended his efforts to kill Usama bin Laden.

"The idea of trying to cast blame on President Clinton is just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don't think he deserves it," Giuliani said in response to a question after an appearance with fellow Republican Charlie Crist, who is running for governor. "I don't think President Bush deserves it. The people who deserve blame for Sept. 11, I think we should remind ourselves, are the terrorists — the Islamic fanatics — who came here and killed us and want to come here again and do it."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later challenged Clinton's claim that he did more than many of his conservative critics to pursue bin Laden, and she accused the Democrat of leaving no comprehensive plan to fight Al Qaeda.

Giuliani said he believed Clinton, like his successor, did everything he could with the information he was provided.

"Every American president I've known would have given his life to prevent an attack like that. That includes President Clinton, President Bush," the former mayor said outside a firehouse here. "They did the best they could with the information they had at the time."

Giuliani also said a recently declassified report that said the Iraq war had become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists demonstrated the need to continue the fight there.

"The jihadists very much want a victory in Iraq. They feel that if they could defeat us in Iraq they will have a great victory for terrorism," Giuliani said. "What that should do is organize us to say if they want a big victory in Iraq then we have to deprive them of that victory."

Giuliani said he was "very interested in considering" a run for president but would not make a decision until after the November election.