hillary clinton.jpg

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday held her first formal press conference in nearly nine months, going on the offensive against Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The former US secretary of state had been under increasing criticism for failing to make herself available to the press, despite daily interviews, public forums and a recent chat with reporters on her campaign jet.

The two major-party nominees each appeared Wednesday night in a television forum focused on defence issues, in which Trump said he would have "a wonderful relationship" with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I think I'll be able to get along with him," Trump said. "He's been a leader. Far more than our president has been a leader."

Clinton blasted Trump on Thursday from a lectern on the tarmac of an airport in White Plains, New York.

"Last night was yet another test, and Donald Trump failed yet again," she said in a nearly 17-minute press conference. "We saw more evidence that he is temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be commander in chief."

Trump had described US generals as humiliated and marginalized under US President Barack Obama, and said as president he would have "different generals."

Clinton accused Trump of having "trash talked" US military leaders.

"That's how he talks about distinguished men and women who have spent their lives serving our country, sacrificing for us. That's how he would act as commander in chief," she said.

"Meanwhile, bizarrely, once again he praised Russia's strongman, Vladimir Putin, even taking the astonishing step of suggesting that he prefers the Russian president to our American president ... It suggests he will let Putin do whatever Putin wants to do, and then make excuses for him."

Clinton was asked in the press conference about the relatively close polling despite Trump having antagonized so many voters.

She had opened a wide lead in voter surveys last month as Trump made a series of inflammatory statements. More recently, however, her edge seemed to narrow as further revelations about her use of a private email server at the State Department revived the long-running scandal.

The average of the latest nationwide surveys, compiled on the website Real Clear Politics, shows Clinton leading Trump by less than 3 percentage points.

"I've always thought this was going to be a close election," she said.

"I feel we're in a strong position."

Later Thursday, Trump raised the email issue again.

"She's got to get her act together. Remember, Hillary Clinton was emailing about the drone programme, among many other extremely sensitive matters. This is yet more evidence that Clinton is unfit to be your commander in chief," he said in Cleveland, Ohio.

Trump accused Clinton of refusing "to take accountability for her failed policies in the Middle East that have produced millions of refugees, unleashed horror of radical Islamic terrorism all over, and made us less safe than ever before."

As secretary of state from 2009-13, Clinton was part of Obama's national security team when US special forces killed al-Qaeda terrorist network leader Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid in Pakistan.

"We should make it a top priority to hunt down the leader of [the Islamic State movement], Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and bring him to justice, just as we did with Osama bin Laden," she said.

"As with that operation, getting al-Baghdadi will require a focused effort driven at the highest levels, but I believe it will send a resounding message that nobody directs or inspires attacks against the United States and gets away with it."

Clinton, who has struggled to get attention for her policy speeches amid media focus on her opponent's every utterance, hammered hard at Trump, a New York real estate tycoon with no previous political experience.

"We're on the brink of making a very critical decision for our country," she said. "And if I were not the candidate, if I were not the nominee, if I were just a concerned citizen, I'd be out here doing everything I could to sound the alarm about someone like Donald Trump getting anywhere near the White House."

Latest news

Trump administration opens door for mass deportations

The US Department of Homeland Security laid the groundwork Tuesday for mass deportations of immigrants living illegally in the United States under an executive order by President Donald Trump last month.

Brexit bill: House of Lords says public can change mind on leaving EU

The British public should be able to change their minds on Brexit - just as Prime Minister Theresa May did, the upper chamber of parliament heard Tuesday during a marathon debate on legislation to kick off EU negotiations.

Italian lawmakers, rights activists clash over gay sex club scandal

Gay rights activists and conservative politicians clashed Tuesday after the chief of Italy's anti-discrimination office quit over allegations that money had been authorized for gay sex clubs.

EU countries agree new rules to avoid tax evasion

European Union finance ministers in Brussels on Tuesday reached a political agreement on new rules to ensure that multinational corporations do not declare profits in the countries where they pay the least tax but in the countries where they generate it.

Trump condemns "horrible, painful" anti-Jewish incidents

US President Donald Trump condemned a recent spate of threats against Jewish community targets across the United States, during a visit Tuesday to the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

FinMin expects Croatia to exit Excessive Deficit Procedure this spring

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Tuesday Croatia could exit the Excessive Deficit Procedure this spring and that it was showing progress in correcting macroeconomic imbalances.

Austria seeks to create jobs, but new EU immigrants need not apply

Austria plans to create 160,000 jobs in the next three years by subsidizing companies, but the project has raised concerns because it effectively excludes people who recently immigrated from other EU countries.

Juncker: Not good for W. Balkans that some in Washington want to water down EU

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday it was not good for Western Balkan countries that some people in the new US administration gave the impression of being against the European Union because those countries needed the prospects of EU membership.

Citizens invited to help create Croatian version of Monopoly

A project to create a Croatian edition of Monopoly, in which citizens can participate by submitting proposals and which could become a souvenir for tourists, was presented at a press conference on Tuesday.

German state approves full-face veil ban

Legislation that bans face veils in select public spaces and situations was agreed by the government of the southeastern German state of Bavaria on Tuesday.

Indian restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok named Asia's best for third year

Bangkok's Indian eatery Gaggan on Tuesday was named the best restaurant in Asia for the third consecutive year by Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.

HGK: 16 Croatian companies to exhibit at IDEX defence exhibition

Sixteen Croatian companies will exhibit their products at the 13th IDEX 2017 defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, to be held on February 19-23.

Trump and the nuclear codes: Carnival again takes aim at politicians

US President Donald Trump, Brexit, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Germany's right-wing AfD party: Floats unveiled Tuesday for this year's Carnival parades in Cologne and Mainz once again turn to political satire to entertain revellers.

Barcelona police open fire on stolen lorry laden with gas canisters

Security forces in Barcelona opened fire on a stolen lorry laden with gas canisters to bring a rampage through the city to an end, police in the Spanish city said on Tuesday.

Stuttgart to issue bans on high-polluting diesel vehicles from 2018

Most diesel vehicles will be banned from roads in the southern German city of Stuttgart during times of heavy pollution, a bid to clean up the city's air, the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg decided Tuesday.