Clinton meets N Ireland political leaders to boost peace process

19:17, October 12, 2009      

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is on a European tour, met with political leaders in Northern Ireland on Monday to boost the deadlocked peace process there.

After meeting with Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, at Stormont Castle in Belfast, Clinton said the U.S. administration was committed to offering support.

She said "We stand ready to help in any way we can. Our two peoples are bound together."

Robinson said "Of course there are difficulties, but we are committed to making it work."

It is reported that the financing of the deal on policing and justice powers has been a major sticking point in recent weeks, with a series of intensive talks between British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and leaders in Northern Ireland.

Speaking on Sunday in Dublin, capital of Ireland, Clinton said there were "questions and some apprehensions" in Northern Ireland's peace process, but she believed that the parties involved understood "this is a step they must take together."

Rival republicans and unionists have yet to agree on the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast, part of the devolution process.

The two sides are in a stand-off over timing and other details. Sinn Fein has been pressing for movement on completing devolution, while the Democratic Unionist Party said it will not agree to a deal until all issues are resolved to its satisfaction.

Signaling renewed U.S. support for the peace process, Clinton expressed optimism during her stay in Ireland, which holds major sway over Sinn Fein.

"It will take the leaders of both communities working together to continue not only the devolution but then to make day-to-day governing a reality, and I'm confident that that is within reach," she said. She also visited Britain, the other major broker of the peace process.

Speaking at a meeting in Dublin on Sunday, Clinton said: "The step of devolution for policing and justice is an absolutely essential milestone."

A republican paramilitary group, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) on Sunday announced an end to violence in Northern Ireland.

A representative of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP), the political wing of the INLA, said the party's objective will be best achieved "exclusively through political, peaceful means."

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