Clinton promises to help restart process

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Bill Clinton last night called for peace in Northern Ireland, urging leaders to "be disciplined and mature" to prevent renewed violence.

The American President's statement came as the leader of the Ulster Unionists, David Trimble, appealed to Mr Clinton yesterday to toughen his stance against Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, by curtailing the visas issued to him for visits to the United States.

Mr Trimble's request, made during talks at the White House with the President and with his National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake, drew little visible enthusiasm. "We have no regrets about the support that we have given Gerry Adams," a White House source retorted afterwards.

Mr Clinton, meanwhile, declined to answer questions about Mr Adams and whether he would continue to receive visas to visit the United States and raise funds here for Sinn Fein. "I'm going to do what I think is best to try to promote peace there," the President said.

Mr Trimble had met earlier in the day with US Senator, George Mitchell, who headed the international commission on setting up all-party talks in Northern Ireland. Many still believe he may emerge as an important mediator in efforts to revive the shattered peace process.

Noting that the Clinton administration had defended its policy of issuing visas to Mr Adams during the ceasefire on the grounds that it could assist in the search for peace, Mr Trimble argued: "The ceasefire has now broken down, and it may be appropriate to look at those issues again."

He said he had urged the President to use his leverage to bring hardline nationalists back from the path of violence to disarmament and the negotiating table. "What I think the administration should be doing is finding ways of putting pressure on Sinn Fein and the IRA, to urge upon them a return to a credible ceasefire and the end of the violence," Mr Trimble said.

While the White House has said little about how it expects to assist in getting peace talks on back on track, officials have indicated that they are not ready to cut Mr Adams loose.

Advisors to President Clinton have continued to argue that Mr Adams offers the best chance of bringing hardline nationalists to the negotiating table. US officials have indicated that there are no plans for any imminent American initiatives.