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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 2, 1999
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY
                          ON NORTHERN IRELAND

The Briefing Room

4:45 P.M. EDT

COLONEL CROWLEY: We have two subjects, kind of a special bonus -- given the good news we have in Belfast today, we thought we would start with Senior Administration Office Number 1, who will talk briefly about Northern Ireland and the President's role over the last few days in supporting the efforts by Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Ahern. And then we will be joined by Senior Administration Officials Number 2 and 3 to talk about today's meetings with President Kim. So we'll start with Senior Administration Official Number One.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. Let me just say a word or two about today's developments, and particularly about the President's role over the past couple of days.

As you all know, Prime Minister Blair and the Taioseach announced today their proposals on the way forward on the Northern Ireland peace process. The President had a little bit to say about it in the pool spray as well. We think this is a very welcome development. These are important proposals. They really represent a tremendous opportunity to move forward with the Good Friday agreement. It is time, I think, that all of the parties understand that all the elements of the agreement need to move forward and I think that the proposals that have been offered by the two leaders are balanced proposals that then allow that to happen.

The parties are obviously going to be consulting with other party leaders and their constituents over the coming days, but we very much hope that they will see what an opportunity this represents really to take this process to its conclusion and to provide an opportunity not only for all of the elements of the agreement to be put into place, but to secure a peaceful future for the people of Northern Ireland.

I think that this is something that, as you all know, has been a very important priority for the President. He's been deeply involved throughout his presidency. But just to say a word or two about the recent events.

The President, I think, in its most recent phase, had an opportunity back in Cologne, on the final day, to discuss with Prime Minister Blair their approach to what was then set forth as a sort of 30 June deadline to try to move the process forward. They had about a 20-minute discussion after the final session of the G-8, on the Sunday, and agreed that they would stay in close touch as the process moved forward.

As the negotiations began here in this past week, the President had, over the course of the last three days, four phone calls with Prime Minister Blair, two with the Taioseach, and also spoke twice with Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams, and once with David Trimble.

The discussions really were very detailed discussions about the proposals in which the President both had an opportunity to hear the perspective of the two government leaders about this and to offer his own insights into what he thought might and might not work in terms of the dynamic of these negotiations.

I think, for those of you who have been following it closely, it's been a very fluid process in which the two leaders have searched for different ways of making sure that all of the needs of the parties were met, and that there were ways in which each side could feel that the assurances that they were being offered would come to life.

And I think in this respect, the President had a particularly crucial role to play because he was able, both in terms of his discussions with the two government leaders and with the party leaders, to be able to reflect what he saw as ways of providing those kinds of assurances -- understanding that, as the agreement is structured and given the problems that the parties have had in terms of establishing trust, that the ability of a third party who has been so deeply involved can provide them certain kinds of assurances and provide a supplement to the more formal assurances that the two governments can provide.

In particular, I think it's fair to say that while there are a number of detailed questions here, that for the Nationalists and Republicans, what was foremost in their minds was some assurance that the governmental institutions would go forward and be created, and for the Unionists meaningful assurances that the decommissioning promised by the Good Friday Accords would actually be achieved.

And I think that both the structure of the agreement, which provides certain failsafe guarantees, and the personal commitment of the President and in his relationships with the party leaders in Northern Ireland, provides a structure of both formal and informal assurances that I think can help move it forward.

Now, we, I think, all have to be appropriately cautious about how these will be received. I think the President has been encouraged by the positive words that he's heard from all of the party leaders and their reaction to these agreements. He will continue to stay in touch with them in the coming days. But we very much think that we have a very strong blueprint for moving the peace process forward and look forward to seeing it implemented in full.

Questions? Okay. Thank you.

END 4:50 P.M. EDT