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Tuesday, March 17, 1998 Published at 02:57 GMT

World: Americas

'Capacity for agreement' - Adams
image: [ President Clinton's 1995 visit to Northern Ireland galvanised the last peace attempt ]
President Clinton's 1995 visit to Northern Ireland galvanised the last peace attempt

The Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has emerged from a 50-minute meeting with President Clinton saying he is hopeful that a peace agreement can soon be signed in Northern Ireland.

[ image: Gerry Adams: hopes violence will not return]
Gerry Adams: hopes violence will not return
Mr Adams stated: "I think there is the capacity to have an agreement."

"I think hopefully there will be nothing remiss, but if there is we cannot allow that to deflect us or to shoulder us off the path that we're on."

The meeting with the politician whose party has links with the IRA was the first in President Clinton's series of informal talks with key players in the peace process.

On Tuesday he meets the Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam, the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, Gary McMichael of the Ulster Democratic Party and John Hume, the SDLP leader.

[ image: All the politicians will be at the White House St Patrick's Day reception]
All the politicians will be at the White House St Patrick's Day reception
They are ostensibly in Washington to celebrate St Patrick's Day and are all on the guestlist for the a reception at the White House. But they are using the occasion to nudge the peace process forward away from the tensions of Belfast, Dublin and London.

Mr Trimble is convinced the informal approach is working. "The few days that we're spending here ... gives us an opportunity to pause and to reflect before entering a period of intensive talks," he said.

President Clinton will deliver the same message to all of them at his separate meetings.

His spokesman Mike McCurry said: "The president intends to tell them the moment is now, that they need to move forward and take advantage of this agonizingly close opportunity."

[ image: David Trimble believes the Washington talks are helping]
David Trimble believes the Washington talks are helping
President Clinton's deputy national security adviser, James Steinberg, also said he would tell the parties there must be an end to the sporadic violence of the last few weeks.

"The president will be giving the clear message that there is no place for violence in this process," he said.

But he added: "We all understand that the closer we get to an agreement the more those who oppose peace ... will try to turn their efforts to sabotaging any agreement that might be reached."


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