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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Clinton 'hopeful on NI process'
Bill Clinton pictured in 2000, on his third visit to Northern Ireland
Bill Clinton pictured in 2000, on his third visit to Northern Ireland

Former US President Bill Clinton has said he is hopeful of a breakthrough in the Northern Ireland political process.

He told BBC Northern Ireland the political parties needed to work together towards a deal.

"It is still unlikely that we will go back to where we were," he said.

"But as long as the Protestants are in the majority - and they may feel they are being put upon by the requirements of the peace agreement - and if you can scare them, you can maybe weaken the moderate pro-peace forces.

"But in the end, it is unthinkable to me that we would actually go back to the way it was.

Adams and other Sinn Fein leaders would see that terror was a dead end - and so I just gambled, it was sheer instinct - I took a chance and I thought I was right and turned out to be right
Bill Clinton

"So what we need to do is to constitute the self-government and let's have elections and keep having elections."

Mr Clinton said he believed Gerry Adams "genuinely didn't want to cause Trimble to lose his job".

He said his decision to grant Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams a US visa in 1994 was "not free of risk".

"But I did have some support on my National Security Council for doing it, I did have some support in the Congress for doing it," he said.

"Sometimes when you are president your advisers are so deeply divided you have to have an instinct about it... it was better to move now than later.

"Adams and other Sinn Fein leaders would see that terror was a dead end - and so I just gambled, it was sheer instinct. I took a chance and I thought I was right and turned out to be right."

'Give some incentives'

When he was told by Gerry Adams in February 1996 that the IRA was about to end its ceasefire, Mr Clinton said "it was not my best day as president".

"I felt terrible. But, from the tone in his voice, I inferred that he did not necessarily agree with the decision.

"I still thought that there was almost no chance that the whole peace could be completed unless America was on the side of the peace process and could give some incentives to the Irish republicans not to resort to terror.

I think it (the political process) is going through a period of buyer's remorse
Bill Clinton

"We got it back on track and I think Adams was a big reason it got it back on track."

The former US leader said he missed being involved in the political process and still maintained contacts with several Northern Ireland politicians.

"I think it (the political process) is going through a period of buyer's remorse - where people are having second thoughts.

"But I can't imagine they would not want to go forward.

"I would always do whatever I could to support it, but I have no position now."

Mr Clinton visited Northern Ireland three times while in office - in 1995, 1998 and 2000.

He first visited the province in November 1995, 15 months after the IRA announced its first ceasefire, and was greeted by thousands of people on the streets as he switched on Belfast's Christmas lights.

His second visit in 1998 came months after the dissident republican bombing of Omagh, while his last visit as president came in 2000 in the final months of his White House tenure.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Former US president Bill Clinton:
"So what we need to do is to constitute the self-government and let's have elections and keep having elections"



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