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Tuesday, March 17, 1998 Published at 18:18 GMT

World: Americas

Seize the chance for peace, says Clinton
image: [ President Clinton with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern ]
President Clinton with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern

President Clinton has called on the visiting party leaders from Northern Ireland to compromise and reach a peace agreement.

In a speech in the White House marking the St Patrick's Day festival, Mr Clinton said the present peace talks in Northern Ireland represented the chance of a lifetime.

President Bill Clinton urges Northern Ireland politicians to resolve the conflict (2'40")
Speaking from the White House Oval Office, President Clinton said: "Party leaders must lead and leading means looking forward and it means being strong enough to make principled compromise."

"This is a chance of a lifetime for peace in Ireland. You must get it done." he said

Mr Clinton's comments came shortly after accepting a bowl of shamrock from the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, an annual St Patrick's Day ceremony in Washington.

The President said that during his meetings with all the Northern Ireland party leaders visiting the United States for the festivities, he would be repeating the same message.

He advised the politicians that what seemed like a big concession today will be much easier to accept in the light of an accord which brought peace and hope.

A BBC correspondent in Washington says the President's comments are part of a strategy in which his administration and the Irish and UK governments have a common purpose.

With the deadline for an agreement in the Northern Ireland talks looming as early as next month, London, Dublin and Washington have all been determined to use this year's St Patrick's Day celebrations to apply as much moral pressure as they can to Northern Ireland's politicians in the hope that this will help the peace negotiations through their final and crucial phase.

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