Britain Takes the Offensive in Wooing GOP Washington Following Two Prickly Years with Clinton, Britain Sends a `Machiavellian' Envoy to Strengthen Ties with US

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BRITONS are nervous that the eye of Newt may soon be cast across the Atlantic, fouling attempts to bolster relations with the United States.

London is sending a new ambassador to Washington, Sir John Kerr, to take over for Sir Robin Renwick and get on better terms with the White House. The Clinton administration has been on touchy terms with Britain's ruling Conservatives ever since party officials advised the Bush campaign in the 1992 election that Bill Clinton went on to win.

The Republican ascendancy in Congress may complicate the attempt. British government sources say Mr. Kerr also will have to establish good relations with dominant Republican politicians, who are led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.

Mr. Renwick spent much of his time in the last two years trying to cope with what Philip Windsor, a foreign policy analyst at the London School of Economics, calls President Clinton's "unhelpful line" toward Britain.

Renwick arrived in Washington in August 1991 in the afterglow of the Gulf war, in which Britain had solidly supported the US. But very early in the Clinton presidency, British officials privately concede, things began to deteriorate.

"London had great difficulty trying to persuade the administration that its approach to the Bosnian crisis was unhelpful from a European standpoint," Mr. Windsor says. "Then Clinton brushed aside British objections to the visits to the US by Gerry Adams, president of the political wing of the IRA {Irish Republican Army}."

The latest difficulty to arise in the "special relationship" between London and Washington is the triumph of the Republicans on Capitol Hill.

"In the Reagan era," Windsor says, "we had to deal with an imperial presidency. Now we face an imperial Congress, and getting its measure is not going to be easy."

Even Republican supporters in Europe are worried about current Washington trends. John Wood, London-based co-chairman of Republicans Abroad, believes there is a "bumpy ride ahead. …