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Clinton Urges Support in N. Ireland

July 2, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton urged Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland to support a plan to salvage the stalemated Good Friday peace accord, saying ``Don’t let this thing come apart now.″

Clinton said there were guarantees for both sides in the agreement announced Friday by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

``No one is going to get something for nothing,″ the president said. ``Everybody’s going to have to fulfill the word of the Good Friday accord.″

The president spoke during an Oval Office photo opportunity with President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea. His remarks on Northern Ireland were prompted by the announcement in Belfast of a formula to form a long-postponed Protestant-Catholic government, the heart of last year’s troubled peace accord.

``I think this is very welcome development,″ Clinton said. ``It gives us a chance to fulfill the Good Friday accords. It gives the people of Northern Ireland, both Protestant and Catholic, a chance to shape their destiny and government themselves. It gives us a chance to put an end to guns and violence forever. The United States intends to support their efforts and to hold all the parties to their commitments. I think that is very, very important.

``This is a major opportunity to resolve that difficult problem forever in ways that are good for all the people there. So it’s good news.″

Clinton has devoted a lot of time to the peace process this week, in telephone calls with Blair, Ahern, David Trimble, head of Northern Ireland’s major British Protestant party, the Ulster Unionists, and Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA-affiliated Sinn Fein party.

Adams did not commit to the new plan but highlighted aspects he felt were positive; Trimble called it ``fundamentally unfair.″ The key question has revolved around ``decommissioning,″ or disarmament by the IRA.

``I would say to those who are dissatisfied ... everybody’s got to comply with everything,″ Clinton said.

He said that ``to those who are skeptical, there are guarantees here.″

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