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Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 14:02 GMT
Hardline unionists 'excluded' by Clinton

Anti-agreement unionists made Mr Clinton aware of their views
President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair have been accused of excluding anti-Good Friday Agreement unionists from talks aimed at trying to find a new consensus in the peace process.

Mr Clinton met Northern Ireland First Minister and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon of the Social Democratic and Labour Party on Wednesday morning at the beginning of a round of separate meetings with the pro-agreement parties at Stormont.

Ulster Unionist, SDLP and Sinn Fein delegations will all have had private discussions with the president by the end of the day.

US special envoy, Senator George Mitchell, who chaired the multiparty talks which led to the signing of the agreement in April 1998, is also involved in the discussions along with Mr Blair.

But the Democratic Unionist Party, which opposes the Northern Ireland Executive power-sharing arrangement although it has two ministers, said Mr Clinton and Mr Blair had refused to meet its representatives.

Nigel Dodds: "Inclusivity means including the DUP"
As the president arrived at Stormont, DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson and other DUP assembly members spoke to Mr Clinton in the foyer for about five minutes.

DUP assembly member Nigel Dodds and Ian Paisley junior said they pressed him on the decision not to have private talks with the party.

Mr Dodds said: "We pointed out to him that an inclusive process means that you just do not exclude the majority unionist voice, that you must include the DUP.

"On the issue of decommissioning we told him that the time had come after all the promises given before and during the talks and before Sinn Fein got into government for there to be movement on arms.

"The time has come to cough up on weapons or face democratic sanctions.

"As for policing we told him that the vast majority of unionists resented the emasculation of the RUC and we stressed that the US emphasis should be on economic investment which is to our mutual benefit."

Mr Dodds said the prime minister had now promised to meet his party before Christmas.

Meanwhile, Mr Paisley said the president had "given us a commitment that he will make a statement about the Real IRA".

Unionists have been calling on the president to proscribe the dissident group in the US to prevent it fundraising.

Members of the smaller anti-agreement Northern Ireland Unionist Party handed a letter of protest to the president in the Stormont foyer, criticising "the lack of political integrity in the involvement of your administration in the politics of Northern Ireland".

Cedric Wilson: Told Clinton his government was "soft on terrorism."

Cedric Wilson of the party said: "He got rather upset angry when I suggested that the Clinton administration had been quite soft in relation to terrorism, and that indeed they had attempted to cover up the fact that far from disarming, the IRA were actually re-arming.

"As he was moving off he said to me: 'You are accusing me then of encouraging terrorism.'

"And I said: 'Actually Mr President that is the net effect of your attempt to breathe new life into this agreement, which is an appeasement of terrorism and not a peace process.'"

Alliance criticism

However, Tom Campbell, a Belfast city councillor for the Alliance Party, was critical of the anti-agreement unionists' response to Mr Clinton's visit.

He accused DUP Lord mayor of Belfast Sammy Wilson for "ignoring president Clinton's visit to the city".

"I find it incredible that he doesn't seem to be able to find a window in his diary to fit in the president of the United States.

"Compared to the prime minister, whose schedule I suspect is fairly full even after the Nice summit, Mr Wilson must be an incredibly busy man. either that or he is just plain rude.

"The DUP can hardly complain that they have been snubbed by the president when they can't even be bothered to greet him."

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12 Dec 00 | Europe
Clinton begins final Irish visit
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