White House backs Reynolds over ceasefire: Alan Murdoch sees the White House put pressure on London to maintain the momentum of the peace process

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The Independent Online
THE Irish prime minister, Albert Reynolds, received powerful White House backing yesterday for his assertion that IRA violence had ended completely when Al Gore, the US Vice-President, said Washington felt the ceasefire statement 'speaks for itself'.

Mr Gore urged Northern Ireland Unionists to hold no doubts about Mr Reynolds' bona fides when deciding whether to join Dublin's proposed forum for peace and reconciliation.

After a 40-minute briefing from the Taoiseach at Shannon Airport on the developing peace process, Mr Gore played down reported friction over London's slowness in accepting the permanence of the ceasefire. 'No one should think John Major has put everything on a single word,' he said.

The clear-cut backing for Mr Reynolds puts Mr Major under increased pressure to respond more positively to the republican move. Last night, Mr Reynolds urged further steps to consolidate the ceasefire, calling for the Anglo- Irish Conference to produce a programme for reopening Irish border roads closed by the British Army for security reasons.

Mr Gore said the process was about the essential building of trust and 'there is no magical incantation' to bring that about.

Mr Gore exhorted Unionists to abandon mistrust of Dublin and join Mr Reynolds's forum for peace and reconciliation. 'He is a man of his word, totally and absolutely. I would encourage anyone to make a decision on participation on that basis.'

The forum was conceived within the Downing Street Declaration partly to lock Sinn Fein into democratic politics during the three-month 'quarantine' period imposed by London prior to it being admitted into all-party talks on Northern Ireland's future.

Many prominent Unionists reject outright the idea of attending the Dublin forum. Jeffrey Donaldson, an honorary secretary of the Ulster Unionist Party, claimed it was 'nothing more than a forum for Irish nationalism'.

Mr Gore also dismissed reports that a lengthy US travel visa was about to be given to the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, saying no application had been received.

(Photograph omitted)