London (CNSNews.com) -Tony Blair was the first international leader to congratulate President-elect George W. Bush on his victory late Wednesday - on an evening the British prime minister spent with his friend and fellow "Third Way" ally, President Clinton.
"I know that together we will strengthen still further the special friendship between Britain and the United States," Blair was quoted as having told Bush after the president-elect's statement.
"My warmest congratulations on your victory in the presidential election. It was a long and agonizing wait for you. I'm very glad it is finally settled."
Blair said his wife Cherie joined him in wishing Bush and his wife, Laura, "all possible strength and success throughout your time as president and first lady of the United States."
A Downing Street spokesman said a formal, written statement would be released later Thursday.
It was actually the second time the British government has congratulated Bush. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook was among a number of political leaders around the world who offered their wishes on the night of the November 7 election, when Bush's victory was prematurely announced.
The Blairs hosted Bill and Hillary Clinton at Chequers, their official residence north-east of London, overnight.
Clinton Thursday meets Queen Elizabeth and delivers a university address before ending what is generally thought to be his last foreign trip as president.