Albright hints at bigger US role in North


THE US is ready to play increased role" in reducing tension in Northern Ireland if necessary, the Secretary of State designate, Ms Madeleine Albright, said yesterday.

Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which to approve her nomination as the first woman secretary of state, Albright picked out Northern Ireland as one of the "historically - troubled regions" where the US over the past four years has been "steadfast in supporting the peace makers over the bomb throwers".

Other areas she listed were Cyprus, Central Africa, South Asia and Ngorno Karabach, the disputed enclave in Azerbaijan.

Saying that the US "stands ready to play a continued or increased role in helping to reduce tension" in these areas, Ms Albright insisted that "in each case, however, our role and our effectiveness will be influenced heavily by the parties' desire for our assistance and by their commitment to achieve a peaceful resolution to their differences".

In a later reference to Northern Ireland, which she linked to Bosnia and the Middle East, Ms Albright said that they were areas where the US had already "clearly made a difference" but "we can't always harvest every success immediately". She said that the US in its transatlantic relationship "must remain a European power", special attention would be paid to relationships with Asia.

Following her presentation, there were interruptions from about half a dozen people protesting against US policy towards Iraq and the effect on children there of UN economic sanctions. After the protesters were ejected, Ms Albright told the committee that it was the actions of President Saddam Hussein which had caused the suffering to the children but that the UN had recently voted to approve an oil sales arrangement which would allow Iraq to import more food.

Ms Albright, at present US ambassador to the UN, was introduced to the committee by outgoing Secretary of State, Mr Warren Christopher. He made her laugh by saying that that she was famous for her "one liners" and his favourite one was when she said, "at times Warren Christopher almost seems life like".