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Last Updated: Monday, 2 February, 2004, 18:24 GMT
Envoy 'to monitor review'

The US president's special envoy to Northern Ireland is set to closely monitor the progress of the review of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mitchell B Reiss said he was ready to travel to Northern Ireland whenever his presence would be considered helpful in the future.

The review, which will involve the British and Irish governments and parties elected to the assembly last November, begins on Tuesday.

Dr Reiss said he understood the widespread frustration felt about the failure to re-establish devolved government and the greater frustration over continued paramilitary activity which was a "stain on Northern Ireland's reputation".

Speaking on Monday at the beginning of his first trip to the province, he added: "I'm especially interested in meeting with those that have been responsible to bring a new beginning to policing."

Dr Reiss also condemned the recent spate of racist attacks.

The political institutions in Northern Ireland were suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence-gathering in the Stormont government.

US officials said Dr Reiss, who takes over from Richard Haass, would be "in a listening mode" as he meets politicians taking part in the review.

Dr Reiss has extensive experience on nuclear disarmament and replaced Mr Haass as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department last year.

Review

The anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party, which topped the assembly poll, wants a wide-ranging review - essentially a renegotiation of the Agreement.

The Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, has said the review of the Agreement should come after the issue of paramilitarism is resolved.

Sinn Fein and the nationalist SDLP have insisted the review should not be treated as a re-negotiation of the Agreement.

Both governments have said they expect the review to last about three months, but no definite date for the end of the process has been specified.

Parties went into last November's assembly election against the background of a deadlocked political process.

The DUP secured 30 seats, three more than the Ulster Unionists. Sinn Fein took 24 seats, while the SDLP managed 18 and the Alliance gained six assembly places.

The DUP has since gained a six-seat advantage over the Ulster Unionists following the defections of Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson and two party colleagues.


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport
said Dr Reiss was a capable successor to Richard Haass



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