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Bush Phones Blair, Ahern

August 1, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush telephoned British and Irish leaders Wednesday, giving his endorsement to their new plan for salvaging Northern Ireland’s peace accord.

``The president believes the package is fair and that it charts the way forward in areas central to the Good Friday agreement,″ said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Bush spoke to Prime Ministers Tony Blair of Britain and Bertie Ahern of Ireland, whose governments gave their peace proposals Wednesday to key Northern Ireland parties. The plan emphasizes that beginning Irish Republican Army disarmament is crucial to saving the province’s Catholic-Protestant administration _ a point that Bush underscored in his conversations, Fleischer said.

``Substantial progress on decommissioning is an essential part of today’s package in the president’s opinion,″ Fleischer said. ``The United States stands ready to help in any way that the governments and the parties find useful and he urges all parties to do everything in their power to take the next steps to implement the Good Friday agreement.″

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