The Prime Minister has sought and obtained assurances that Mr Adams will not be given high-profile meetings at the White House and in Washington. The British government is also seeking to counter the propaganda impact of Mr Adams's visit by sending a senior figure to the US from Northern Ireland before the visit.
Whitehall sources said the Government was anxious to ensure the Unionist case was put to the American public and that Mr Adams's 'progression' on coast-to-coast television without challenge on his first visit was not repeated.
The British government has also asked the US government that, if it does grant the visa, it will put pressure on Mr Adams to commit the republican movement to the permanent ceasefire which Mr Major has been demanding.
Mr Major, who arrived in Saudi Arabia last night on the first leg of a visit to South Africa, made it clear that he believed there would be a long haul to a peace settlement, in spite of the IRA ceasefire. He indicated that it would be some time before the framework document on the constitutional settlement was produced, on which the referendum will be held.
The Prime Minister remains determined to keep the Unionist majority assured that there has been no sell-out on the Union to deliver peace. He is, therefore, continuing with his cautious approach in spite of pressure by Albert Reynolds, the Taoiseach, to keep up the momentum.
Martin McGuinness, a senior member of Sinn Fein, said yesterday that he was 'disappointed and surprised' by the statement from Mr Reynolds, that he did not expect a united Ireland in this generation.
Although some will argue that the Taoiseach's comments, made in a newspaper interview, should be regarded as little more than a statement of the obvious, Mr Reynolds's stance will be seen by others as a dramatic departure from the traditional position of his party, Fianna Fail, which is both the largest party in the Irish Republic and the most republican of the mainstream parties.
It may be taken as a reassuring gesture by many Unionists, though many northern non-republican nationalists will regard it as a concession too far. This was reflected by Mr McGuinness, when he said many others apart from himself would be surprised and disappointed. He said: 'We have to be realistic, but we should not be pessimistic.' The senior Sinn Fein member also made it clear that his party remained committed to a policy of ending partition. Although he resolutely refused to meet the demands of Mr Major and declare that the IRA's cessation of violence was permanent, he stressed that Sinn Fein was totally committed to using democratic and peaceful methods.
Loyalists are believed to have been responsible for a series of largely ineffectual petrol-bomb attacks in the Co Down town of Dromore early yesterday.
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