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The United States delegation which helped pave the way for the 1994 IRA ceasefire is to return to Ireland at Sinn Fein's invitation. The move is likely to renew speculation that the republican movement is attempting to find a way back into the political talks process with the minimum loss of face. Sinn Fein said last night that the delegation's "fact-finding" visit would help "identify how a new and credible peace process can be constructed".

The group will be led by former US congressman Bruce Morrison, who also led the 1994 delegation. He is a former university friend of President Bill Clinton with direct access to the White House. The involvement of senior Irish-American politicians could be influential if it created renewed confidence among republicans that active Washington involvement could accelerate real progress in all-party negotiations.