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US President George W Bush's
inauguration speech
 real 56k

Sunday, 21 January, 2001, 11:47 GMT
Trimble welcomes Bush Presidency
George W and Laura Bush at inauguration
Trimble believes Bush will take "less personal approach to NI"
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has said he is looking forward to the more detached approach he believes USA President George W Bush will take to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland's first minister said Mr Bush's inauguration on Saturday marked the opening of a new chapter in US relations with the province and the UK.

Speaking at a meeting of the East Londonderry Ulster Unionist Association in Limavady on Saturday night, Mr Trimble said he expected the new administration to move away from Bill Clinton's emphasis on international conflict resolution.

He added: "I also happen to agree with those who expect the new president to take less of a personal interest in Northern Ireland though, for a variety of reasons, it will continue to be an interest for the State Department."


David Trimble: Call for new administration to be tough on terrorism
Mr Trimble said the Clinton Presidency would be remembered in Northern Ireland for his three unprecedented visits to the province and his support for the Good Friday Agreement.

While having reservations at times about the substance of the former US president's role in the peace process, where he was seen by unionists at times to favour the nationalist viewpoint, the UUP leader acknowledged Mr Clinton had been supportive of the 1998 peace accord.

He said he hoped the new White House administration would forge an "even closer partnership" with the UK on a range of political and economic issues.

Fighting terrorism

The first minister noted the US Republican Party's commitment to providing assistance to other nations in the fight against terrorism.

Unionists had been pushing the previous US administration to consider proscribing dissident republican paramilitary organisations opposed to the peace process to stop them raising funds in the US.

Groups including the Real IRA, which carried out the Omagh bombing killing 29 people in 1998, have continued to be active.

Mr Trimble said: "I hope and trust that we will have the Bush administration's full co-operation in stamping out the last vestiges of terrorism in Northern Ireland.


Bill Clinton was influential during Good Friday Agreement negotiations
"I hope too that the new administration will continue to bolster the peace process with economic aid targeted at reconciliation and that US companies will continue to be encouraged to invest in Northern Ireland."

This week, in the last days of his presidency, Mr Clinton sent key adviser Jim Steinberg to Northern Ireland to assist in the intensive negotiations held to try to agree a resolution on issues threatening the future of the province's powersharing arrangement.

Mr Steinberg joined Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish officials at Hillsborough Castle on Wednesday and Thursday during intensive talks to try to resolve differences over IRA decommissioning, police reform, demilitarisation and Ulster Unionist sanctions against Sinn Fein.

Although the talks failed to achieve a breakthrough, efforts are set to continue over the coming weeks to find a formula to deal with the interlocking issues.

The responsibility for Northern Ireland policy in the new US administration is expected to rest with the State Department headed by General Colin Powell.

Under the Clinton administration, it was driven by the National Security Council and the president.

There had been speculation during Mr final presidential visit to Ireland in December that he might act as a peace envoy on leaving office in a bid to safeguard the agreement. However, that would require President Bush's assent.

Politicians in Belfast, Dublin and London will also watch closely how the new President handles St Patrick's Day celebrations in March, which have been used in the past to give invited Northern Ireland politicians a breathing space in which to reconsider the peace process.

'Commitment'

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said that Mr Bush has already pledged his commitment to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Bertie Ahern hopes US administration will still take interest in NI affairs

In a letter congratulating the new head of state on his inauguration as 43rd President of the United States, Mr Ahern highlighted the "invaluable" backing of successive American administrations in the bid to secure peace in Northern Ireland.

The Irish premier said his government looked forward to working closely with Mr Bush on a whole range of common issues between Ireland and the United States - political, economic and cultural - and to "strengthening the close and mutually beneficial links between us".

He added: "Over many years, the support of successive presidents, administrations and members of congress in the United States for efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland has been invaluable - particularly in achieving the Good Friday agreement.

"President Bush wrote to me this week, confirming his strong personal interest and on-going commitment to the peace process.

"I look forward to working with him and continuing the strong tradition of friendship and co-operation that has characterised relations between our two countries in the past."

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See also:

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Clinton: No turning back for NI
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The Clinton years
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