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The Ulster Declaration: Arafat misses history in making: The Scene in Downing Street

BY A chance of history, Yasser Arafat left Downing Street after talks with John Major shortly before the arrival of Albert Reynolds, the Irish Prime Minister.

The PLO leader was heckled by a group of Muslim protesters, as his car swept out of the gates. They shouted: 'Arafat traitor' and held a banner proclaiming: 'Allah is the only God.'

It was the perfect prelude for a fresh attempt at peace in Ulster, and for the arrival of the Rev Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionists, who denounced the declaration before it had been produced.

Unlike the moment at the White House when Mr Arafat reached across the political divide to shake the hand of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, there was no historic handshake outside Number 10. Mr Major and Mr Reynolds emerged from there at 11.41am to announce the Downing Street declaration had been agreed.

They stood stiffly at separate lecterns, in front of the Downing Street Christmas tree. By Mr Major's side was Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who last week offered to resign over the errors in communications with the IRA.

After making short speeches, the two Prime Ministers turned to find the door to Number 10 firmly closed behind them. Mr Major had to knock twice before gaining admission.