White House has no regrets over its action

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Indy Politics
The White House made plain yesterday that it has no regrets over its decision to allow Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, to raise money during his week-long tour of the United States and to meet President Bill Clinton on Friday, in spite of the furious reaction it has triggered in Britain.

Almost dismissive of the complaints by John Major and his ministers, the White House spokesman, Mike McCurry, commented: "We are aware of their concerns". He added that Britain still enjoyed a "warm and special relationship with the US".

That relationship has rarely been so strained since the US administration announced last Thursday that it was lifting a ban on Mr Adams fund-raising here and that he would be included in St Patrick's Day celebrations at the White House at the end of the week. Britain had strenuously lobbied Washington against both moves.

When asked whether Mr Clinton had had second thoughts about his gestures to Mr Adams in the light of the furore in London, Mr McCurry replied with a curt "No".

Mr Major joined the fray at the weekend when asked why he would not meet with Mr Adams when his Middle East tour includes plans for a meeting today with Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader. He said that while Mr Arafat had renounced terrorism, Sinn Fein was still associated with the IRA, "a fully- formed terrorist organisation".

There seems to be no domestic reason for Mr Clinton to be worried about his decision. He was praised in a New York Times editorial yesterday, which dubbed the British reaction as "silly". It argued that once Mr Adams had indicated a willingness last week to discuss the decommissioning of IRA arms with British ministers, "Mr Clinton was right to resist British pressure to snub the Sinn Fein leader".

Mr Adams, who yesterday met the Governor of New York, George Pataki, and members of the state legislature in Albany, picked up the thread of the Arafat controversy during an interview on American television. "The British Government have yet to grasp the nettle of making a peace treaty," he said. "That's what the talks need to be about. What I have is what Arafat never had, an electoral mandate which John Major doesn't have in my country. I think it's insensitive of Mr Major to make those comparisons".

Today, Mr Adams will preside over the opening of an office in Washington for the "Friends of Sinn Fein", a new American fund-raising organisation.