Reversal of NI peace process `not an option'


Reversal of the Northern peace process is not an option, the US President, Mr Clinton, said during his visit to Government Buildings yesterday.

Mr Clinton and the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, spoke at a press briefing in Mr Ahern's office.

"I think we have to keep going. I don't think reversal is an option," he told journalists, adding that it was obvious from his contacts with people that they wanted the peace process to succeed.

President Clinton said he cared a great deal about the peace process and said "the Irish have proved that you can do this". He spoke of how the successes in peace talks have had a major impact on trouble spots around the world.

He urged those parties which are not involved in the process to join and not wreck it. "Too much had already been gained."

Asked to comment on speculation that he might take on the role of a special peace envoy after he steps down Mr Clinton said that the next US president, "whoever it may be", would have his own team in place.

"The people want this to go on and I think the leaders have to find a way through the last three or four difficult issues and I think it can be done. I'll do what I can to be helpful," he said.

Mr Clinton said he did not think people could possibly imagine the impact of the success of the Irish peace process had on trouble spots around the world. "I want you to know how much people around the world look to you."

Mr Ahern said that of course he thought the President could help.

"To expect all the problems to be resolved in one go is, of course, impractical. But the very fact that the President is coming has helped people to focus on what are still difficulties and to try to narrow down those difficulties and to look at the possibilities of what we can do."

Mr Ahern said he had "no doubt that the talks that we will have now and during the course of the day and tomorrow (in Belfast) and the visit to Dundalk tonight, will allow people to see all that we have achieved. We still have issues to deal with. We are dealing with them and this visit will help that."

Mr Ahern was asked whether he would miss President Clinton when he stood down. He replied: "I will, yes. There is no doubt about that."