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The BBC's Denis Murray
"Can a president in his last days in office make a difference?"
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BBC NI political correspondent Martina Purdy:
"There is a feeling that President Clinton's visit could be a catalyst for a deal"
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Monday, 11 December, 2000, 18:36 GMT
Clinton considers NI peace role

Clinton has taken keen interest in NI politics since his 1995 visit
US President Bill Clinton would consider playing a further role in the Northern Ireland peace process after his term of office ends, according to his advisers.

The comments come ahead of Mr Clinton's arrival in Dublin on Tuesday at the start of his third and final visit to Ireland before his presidency ends next month.

Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble said he wanted Mr Clinton to use his visit to the province to shift paramilitaries from their "intransigent positions".

The president's foreign policy adviser, PJ Crowley, said Mr Clinton would be sending out a signal to paramilitaries on both sides that they should meet their commitments on decommissioning.

Mr Crowley told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday: "We have a message for both Sinn Fein, the republicans and the loyalists.

"It is that you have got to keep implementing Good Friday Agreement in all aspects. You have got to keep making progress on decommissioning. We accept the pledge on putting arms beyond use.

"Now you have got to make that work and institutionalise it in a way in which people can have confidence. You have got to sit down and make the compromise."

David Trimble
David Trimble: Repeating decommissioning demands
Mr Crowley said the president regarded the Northern Ireland peace process as one of the key achievements of his time in office.

He added: "President Clinton values the help he has been able to render and it wouldn't surprise me if he is willing to remain active after he leaves office, if that is something the parties wanted to consider."

Meanwhile, Mr Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionists, has re-iterated a call for the president to use his visit to help move the peace process forward.

In an article in Monday's Belfast Telegraph newspaper, Mr Trimble said: "Unfortunately the IRA is again pretending that decommissioning is being set up as an obstacle.

"They overlook the fact that they entered into commitments on this issue - commitments I will not let them forget.

"I want the IRA to keep to those commitments. That is because I am determined to see the agreement work in the way that was originally envisaged.

"I hope that the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries will not let him (Mr Clinton) down."

Mr Trimble again pledged to lift his ban on Sinn Fein attending meetings of the north-south ministerial council meetings, if the IRA re-engaged with the decommissioning body.

His action prompted a judicial review by Sinn Fein which will be heard by the High Court in Belfast.

Trimble and Blair meet

The Ulster Unionist leader met Prime Minister Tony Blair at Westminster on Monday evening to discuss the presidential visit.


I can only say that there is no evidence that there will be any kind of package which will break this impasse at this time

Gerry Adams
The British and Irish governments had hoped that some progress could be made on finding agreement on issues including paramilitary decommissioning, demilitarisation and policing to coincide with Mr Clinton's visit.

However, a Downing Street spokesman denied that any deal was being prepared.

He said the meeting was a matter of course in view of the visit.

Sinn Fein hopes to lobby Mr Clinton on the issue of demilitarisation and what it sees as the British government's failure to fully implement the policing reforms proposed by Chris Patten.

But speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was downbeat about the possibility of finding a resolution.

He said: "I can only say that there is no evidence that there will be any kind of package which will break this impasse at this time."

Mr Clinton will arrive in Dublin on Tuesday, and later head to the border town of Dundalk in County Louth.

On Wednesday, he will have talks with the main pro-agreement parties at Stormont, before giving a public address at the new Odyssey Centre in Belfast.

The US Ambassador in London, Philip Lader, said Mr Clinton would try to "contribute to a climate in which the politicians and government s are better able to reach solutions in the future".

"There are real hurdles to an enduring peace," he told the Today programme.

"The president is going to try to help people lift their sights to the longer term goal of a lasting and durable peace."

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See also:

07 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Clinton 'will not negotiate' in NI
07 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Bill Clinton 1-0 Belfast Giants
02 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Devolution's turbulent year
11 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Clinton: His role in Northern Ireland
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