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  1. ITV Report

US Ambassador denies rift with UK over Libya: 'Obama and Cameron's friendship is real'

The US Ambassador to the UK has downplayed talk of a rift between the two nations over the handling of the 2011 Libya intervention - telling ITV News the two leaders' friendship was "real".

Matthew Barzun insisted the UK-US 'special relationship' was still special, and praised the two countries' joint handling of a number of crises in recent years including Ebola, humanitarian aid and the situation in Syria.

It comes after a magazine interview with President Barack Obama appeared to place blame on British Prime Minister David Cameron and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the current situation in Libya - describing it as a "s***-show"**.

During the interview, reported in The Atlantic, Mr Obama said he had had "more faith in the Europeans... being invested in the follow-up", and said Mr Cameron had become "distracted by a range of other things".

Mr Barzun has now moved to clarify these comments in an interview with ITV News at Ten presenter Tom Bradby, arguing Mr Obama had already taken "personal responsibility" for Libya.

He said it was "important" to talk about places where action has not gone as well as hoped.

President Obama... actually stood up at the United Nations General Assembly last [autumn] and he took personal responsibility as he reflected on his time in office, and he said: 'Look there is more we could have done in the aftermath and more we should have done'.

So I think he's been very clear about taking on that responsibility.

What President Obama has always said is he's leading with his values, and he's being very pragmatic about what are the goals that we want to achieve and how will our actions and our words help us get closer to those goals we want.

And so as he said when he came here to London in 2011 we're working together, US and UK to make the world more peaceful, more prosperous, more just.

Those are the North Stars that we're going for, Brits and Americans mean the same things when we say them.

– Matthew Barzun, US Ambassador to the UK

The US and the UK were "leading together" in many areas, he added - and while he refused to go into detail, he said he had been party to a number of conversations between the President and the PM.

"The friendship is real and the closeness is real," he said.

"You see that in private and you also see that in public. And you see it all around the world where the UK is leading as a diplomatic super power, where the US is leading and where we're working together."

On the impending EU referendum, Mr Barzun said the decision was ultimately up to Britain to determine its own relationship with Europe - but added that he does believe the UK is stronger within the EU.

Of course it's up to you guys, your relationship with - and within - Europe.

Of course we care, how could we not care given... all the places we're engaged in around the world to deal with threats, and opportunities like trade deals we're trying to negotiate.

We know that the UK makes every organisation they are part of stronger. We see it everyday in the United Nations Security Council, we see it every single day in NATO. So we know that the UK is a diplomatic super power, they make everything stronger.

Now with the European Union, we're not a part of that obviously but from our persepctive we want a strong UK in a strong EU... Of course it's up to you, but if you ask of course we're going to keep telling you what we think.

That's what friends do.

– Matthew Barzun, US Ambassador to the UK