It has long been traditional for the US President to receive the Irish prime minister in Washington on 17 March, but under President Clinton the event has been upgraded to reflect the strong Irish-American role in promoting the Northern Ireland peace process.
Last year Clinton hosted a "peace" party attended not only by John Bruton, the Irish prime minister, but also by John Hume, the SDLP leader, Gary McMichael of the loyalist Ulster Democratic Party and Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein's president.
This year, according to diplomatic sources, plans for a repeat performance have been put on hold pending the outcome of efforts to restore the ceasefire.
A White House spokesman confirmed on Friday that whereas traditionally such an event would be expected to go ahead, nothing had been scheduled. The doubts over the party are linked to the broader question of whether the White House will grant Mr Adams's request, made on 7 February, for the renewal of his America visa. This is now opposed by leading Irish- American senators, even though the Sinn Fein leader still commands strong respect among the 40 million Irish-American community.
The White House spokesman, Mike McCurry, said: "We hope the peace process will be on track at the time Mr Adams proposes to visit." But he added that this was not necessarily a precondition of renewing the visa.
n The head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad last night warned of the "imminent" danger of further IRA attacks.
Commander John Grieve said: "Following the discovery of significant quantities of bomb-making material and detailed documentation at George Lane, Lewisham, we are warning of the possibility of imminent attacks by the provisional IRA on the mainland."
Further report, page 2
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