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Clinton Offers To Help Peace Talks

July 1, 1999

CHICAGO (AP) _ President Clinton beseeched the British and Irish on Wednesday to ``give peace a chance,″ as they worked into the night to save the Northern Ireland peace pact.

Clinton talked twice with British Prime Minister Tony Blair _ both before and after a fund-raising dinner here. Each call lasted about 10 minutes. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart declined to characterize the conversation, except to say that Blair gave Clinton an update on the talks.

Returning to Washington as the talks were adjourned until Friday, Clinton also spoke from Air Force One with Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and Sinn Fein-IRA leader Gerry Adams, Lockhart said.

``The president made the point to both of them that they need to stay the course and resolve this because it’s too late to turn back now,″ Lockhart said. He said the conversations were ``substantive″ and dealt with relevant issues, but he would not specify them.

Speaking to reporters after a speech here, the president said he stood ready to become personally involved in the deadlocked talks in Belfast if he is needed.

``I will do whatever I can to be helpful,″ he said. ``We’re moving forward and I’m hoping for the best.″

The prime ministers of Britain and Ireland have been in talks with political leaders of Northern Ireland, trying to agree on a formula for setting up the new local government _ agreed to in last year’s celebrated Good Friday Accords _ and disarming the Irish Republican Army.

Clinton asked the parties Wednesday not to let the pact fall apart.

``It’s still a good deal and they need to find a way to go forward. If anybody fails to fulfill any condition ... at any time in the future by the appropriate deadlines, it can always be taken down,″ Clinton said.

``But it shouldn’t be taken down in the absence of a failure to fulfill the basic conditions. We should go forward and give peace a chance,″ he said.

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