Clinton is expected to visit Ireland for EU-US summit

 

PRESIDENT Clinton is likely to visit Ireland later this year for an EU-US summit at the end of November or early December. Officials are trying to arrange a firm date for the meeting in Dublin on the assumption that Mr Clinton will be re elected.

These EU-US summits are supposed to be held twice yearly in Washington and the country which holds the EU presidency but at times the European one has been dropped because it does not suit the President's agenda.

Mr Clinton will discuss the prospects for this summit and the state of the Northern Ireland peace negotiations with the Taoiseach, Mr Bruton, next week when he is in Washington to address a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The meeting in the White House on Monday afternoon is expected to last 30 to 40 minutes on a busy day for Mr Clinton which also includes a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US administration is hopeful that the peace talks will succeed this time under the chairmanship of former Senator George Mitchell. According to a senior administration official, there is "a reasonable chance" that the IRA ceasefire will be restored so that Sinn Fein can be allowed into the negotiations.

The official expressed admiration for the efforts of the loyalist parties in preventing a resumption of violence by loyalist paramilitaries. "They deserve a medal" for what they have been doing, the official said.

The question of a new visa for the Sinn Fein president, Mr Gerry Adams, to visit the US in the coming months has not yet been addressed by the administration. His visa expired last June. The administration is not aware at this stage whether Mr Adams intends to visit the US although there have been reports that he wants to attend a seminar on Irish affairs later this year.

Mr Clinton will also discuss EU attempts to reach a common decision on the US missile attacks on Iraq with Mr Bruton. But the President is not going to request a formal statement of EU support, the official indicated. The US had been disappointed with the critical reactions of France and Spain to the missile attacks.

The outbreak of violence in the North in July and August took the administration by surprise but now it sees "a silver lining as the events will have shown those involved the importance of the choice for the future. It will either be the path Mr Clinton set out on his Irish visit of a better life for all or a retreat into the violence experienced by past generations.

The administration believes that Mr Mitchell is doing a "terrific" job and is now accepted by all sides as a person of integrity and impartiality. His work in chairing the talks during a most difficult start up period is described as a "monumental achievement".

Washington is in contact with Mr Mitchell who, however, remains "an independent personality". The administration hopes that from the resumption of the peace talks next Monday the decommissioning issue will be quickly dealt with and that there will be a rapid movement to "substantive issues".

The US role will continue to be one of "help and encouragement" and staying in contact with all parties.

Recent criticism of Mr Clinton's role in the peace talks at the Republican convention by former Secretary of State, Mr Jim Baker, are dismissed here. The administration rejects charges that Northern Ireland is "only a baby issue" in US foreign policy.