Brown welcomes Greenspan, and his book, to Britain

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LONDON, Oct 1 (Reuters) A towering figure, the best economist of his generation and a great pal of Britain -- if Gordon Brown doesn't last long as Britain's Prime Minister such effusive praise of Alan Greenspan might land him a sales job.

Greenspan, in Britain to promote his new book, The Age of Turbulence, received a ringing endorsement from old friend Brown ahead of the ex-Federal Reserve Chairman's speech at Reuters today on the causes of the current financial turmoil.

''Alan Greenspan is a towering figure in the international financial community who combines the qualities of outstanding leadership, extraordinary insight, absolute integrity and a strong sense of social responsibility and internationalism,'' Brown said.

The centre-left Labour party leader might seem to have little in common with Greenspan, a champion of free markets, but the two men have been close friends for more than a decade and the former Fed chief is an advisor to the new PM.

Greenspan, who ran the Fed for more than 18 years, has described Brown, British finance minister from 1997 until he took over from Tony Blair in June, as ''without peer among the world's economic policymakers''.

In his new book, The Age of Turbulence, Greenspan describes how he first met Brown and Blair in 1994 and considered their New Labour project a rejection of socialism in favour of continuing former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's economic reforms.

''In the fall of 1994, Brown and Blair trekked into my office at the Federal Reserve. As we exchanged greetings, it appeared to me that Brown was the senior person. Blair stayed in the background while Brown did most of the talking about a new Labour,'' Greenspan writes in the book.

''Gone were the socialist tenets of postwar Labour leaders like Michael Foot and Arthur Scargill, the fiery leader of the miners' union, Brown espoused globalisation and free markets and did not seem interested in reversing much of what Thatcher had changed in Britain.'' ANYONE FOR TENNIS? Thatcher, prime minister from 1979 to 1990, has long been a hate figure for Britain's left. But Brown invited the former premier to his residence last month as part of his drive to broaden his Labour party's appeal to traditional right-wingers.

Greenspan, who helped Brown devise plans to give the Bank of England independence when he was at the Fed, now acts as an unpaid advisor to Brown on international economic issues.

Aides to the prime minister say the two men developed a very warm relationship over the many years they met at Group of Seven meetings and other international forums.

The two play tennis together and in Feb. 2005, Brown invited Greenspan to his home in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, when he received an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh, the prime minister's alma mater.

And later that year, Brown hosted an extraordinary meeting of the G7 in London to pay tribute to Greenspan before he stepped down as Fed chair.

The central banker, who was knighted in 2002, received the freedom of the City of London then -- it allows him the right to herd sheep across London Bridge.

''Greenspan has served not only America, but the whole world,'' Brown said then.

Reuters SKB RS1729

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