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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 23:09 GMT
Clinton 'will not negotiate' in NI

Clinton has taken keen interest in NI politics since his 1995 visit
US President Bill Clinton hopes his visit to Northern Ireland will contribute to a climate in which agreement can be found, his senior aide has said.

Sandy Berger, the US national security adviser, said Mr Clinton intended to use his visit to help create a climate in which the Northern Ireland parties could resolve their differences over issues, including policing and paramilitary arms decommissioning.

Mr Berger made the announcement as he briefed the press on the details of Mr Clinton's visit to the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain from 12-14 December.

He said: "The president will speak to the people of Northern Ireland and their leaders while he is there.

Sandy Berger: Clinton will not get involved in negotiations
"He will urge them to focus on the unmistakable benefits that have been brought by the Good Friday accord, arguing that the problems of power-sharing are far preferable to the problems of being powerless.

"As he has at key moments in this process in the past, he will remind the people and leaders of Northern Ireland how far they have come, what's at stake, how much they have to lose by going back."

However, he said the president was not going to get involved in negotiations on the issues currently threatening to stabilise the political process in the province.

"The president is not going to negotiate the current issues.

"That is for the parties and the British and Irish Governments. But he will try to contribute to a climate in which the parties and the governments are better able to reach these solutions in the future."

Third visit

Mr Clinton's third visit to Northern Ireland is expected to be his most political, as he is coming to Northern Ireland at a time when the British and Irish Governments are trying to put together a package to avert another political crisis in the province.

Last week, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon, of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said he hoped a resolution could be found on the issues that threatened to destabilise the process, before Mr Clinton arrived.

But there is no sign that any of the main players are prepared to step back from their differing positions on policing, paramilitary decommissioning and demilitarisation.

Odyssey address to public

President Clinton is to meet Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Irish President Mary McAleese when he travels to Dublin on the first day of his visit.

He is to consult Mr Ahern on the peace process before travelling to the Irish border town of Dundalk, where he plans to make an outdoor speech.

Mr Berger said that although the Dundalk area, just south of the Northern Ireland border, had been badly affected by the Troubles, it was currently "a model of economic regeneration".

Mr Clinton then plans to travel to Belfast, to spend the night, before meeting the leaders of the province's main political parties at Stormont on the morning of 13 December.

That afternoon he is to make an address to the people of Northern Ireland, from the Odyssey centre, Belfast's new millennium arena, which opened its doors for the first time in December.

He is then to travel to London that evening, to have dinner with Prime Minister Tony Blair at Chequers.

On Thursday, he is to have an audience with the Queen, before travelling to Warwick University to give a talk about the challenges the world faces over the next decade.

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See also:

03 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
High hopes for Clinton visit
07 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Trimble dismisses IRA statement
07 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Bill Clinton 1-0 Belfast Giants
30 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Clinton may get new peacemaker role
02 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Devolution's turbulent year
02 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
NI policing plan 'being revised'
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