"We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody's gotten since," Clinton said in a televised US interview on Fox News Sunday.

 

"That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now," he added.

 

"They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try, they did not try."

 

Clinton rounded on his host, Chris Wallace, and accused him of a "conservative hit job", saying, "... 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."

 

He said, "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 off the coast of Yemen in 2000, and former White House anti-terrorism chief Richard A. Clarke.

 

"Hit job"

 

Wallace said on Sunday that he was surprised by Clinton's "conspiratorial view" of "a very non-confrontational question, 'Did you do enough to connect the dots and go after al-Qaeda?"

 

"We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody's gotten since"

Bill Clinton, former US president

"All I did was ask him a question and I think it was a legitimate news question. I was surprised that he would conjure up that this was a hit job," Wallace said in a telephone interview.

 

The interview was taped on Friday during Clinton's three-day Global Initiative conference.

 

On NBC's "Meet the Press," also taped on Friday and aired on Sunday, Clinton told interviewer Tim Russert that the biggest problem confronting the world today was "the illusion that our differences matter more than our common humanity."