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Embattled Clinton reaffirms commitment to North peace

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the impeachment controversy swirling around him, President Bill Clinton pointed to Northern Ireland as one of his foreign policy successes during his State of the Union address last week, declaring that "all Americans can be proud that our leadership helped bring about the Good Friday Agreement."

The president included an outline of his commitment to remaining involved in the Northern Ireland peace effort during his Jan. 19 address before both houses of congress and millions of television viewers, just hours after his own lawyers argued the case against his removal from office in the senate.

The White House sent members of congress a list of foreign policy initiatives in tandem with the release of the State of the Union address. Included in the initiatives was a strong statement detailing the administration’s commitment to see to fruition the Good Friday Agreement.

"President Clinton’s intensive diplomatic efforts helped achieve the landmark Good Friday Accord last spring, bringing new governing structures and a new era of cooperation to Northern Ireland," declared the outline.

"It’s no accident that Northern Ireland is at the top of the list," a White House official said. "The president is committed to seeing what was laid out in the agreement be implemented.

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"This is a public commitment and mirrors the ones we’ve been receiving privately that President Clinton intends on helping to get the agreement fully implemented. You can not underestimate what it does for the process."

The foreign policy initiative paper also reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to the International Fund for Ireland.

James Steinberg of the National Security Council said that the White House was upbeat on the current negotiations on the formation of the Northern Ireland executive.

"We were pleased with the recent events," he said from his office in the White House. Those events included the affirmative vote on the report presented by Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble on the shape of Northern Ireland’s future government.

"When we say we want to sell all the details delivered upon on the Good Friday Accord, we mean that we want to see decommissioning and the formation of the new government as both were outlined," Steinberg said.

Cross-border initiatives

The Clinton administration has also pledged to help foster cross-border initiatives and one such a program will be launched this week in Washington. A joint FBI-State Department Office of Anti-Terrorism Assistance program will bring together the heads of the RUC and the Gárda in a training operation at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va.

RUC Chief Sir Ronnie Flannagan and Gárda Commissioner Pat Byrne will join officers from their organizations in training that is aimed to enhance their abilities to work together. The two have both trained separately at Quantico before. This will be a first joint training session.

FBI Director Louis Freeh will work with the leaders and their officers and will host a luncheon for the two while they attend the week-long program. The program is paid for by U.S. State Department funding.

According to an FBI statement, "experts will lead discussions on a range of topics such as human rights, the recognition of the diversity, stress management, and anti-terrorism and anti-crime strategies."

The FBI did not list any training or programs that address the issue of composition. Currently, more than 90 percent of RUC officers are Protestant. More than 40 percent of Northern Ireland’s population is Catholic.

British Ambassador Christopher Meyer will host a dinner at his residence in Washington in honor of Flannagan and Byrne.

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