Adams to be denied White House talks

GERRY ADAMS, the Sinn Fein president, arrives in Washington today for talks with members of Congress and officials of the United States Administration but will be denied the symbolically important prize of a visit to the White House.

While a meeting with President Clinton may never have been realistic, Sinn Fein strategists were hopeful that Mr Adams would at least be given access to the White House for talks with Anthony Lake, the president's National Security adviser.

The White House has decided to shun Mr Adams in spite of considerable pressure from friends of the nationalist cause on Capitol Hill. It was agreed not to give him high-level treatment, an official said, 'because he hasn't quite gone all the way towards saying the ceasefire is permanent'.

Attention is now likely to focus on a television debate on CNN's Larry King Live show tomorrow night, with Mr Adams and Ken Maginnis, the security spokesman of the Ulster Unionists, as joint guests. Mr Maginnis, who said he was looking forward to 'putting the Unionist case', flew out to Washington yesterday. Mr Maginnis was a member of a Unionist delegation that came to Washington two weeks ago. In contrast to Mr Adams's treatment, the Unionists were welcomed into the White House for meetings with officials, including the vice- president, Al Gore.

The most senior official expected to see Mr Adams is Nancy Soderberg, number three on the National Security Council and adviser to the President on Irish matters. Otherwise he will meet officials of the State Department and members of the House Foreign Relations Committee in Congress.

At rallies in Philadelphia at the weekend, Mr Adams continued to press the Government to begin negotiations on an Irish settlement. Asked whether a referendum on the north's future should be held only in the province or in all of Ireland, he said: 'The consent of all the Irish people is required, but no one section should have a veto.'