Bush to call Adams in search for deal

27 November 2004
By Harry McGee

US President George W Bush is expected to speak by telephone to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams today as part of an intensive, last-minute effort to restore the devolved government to the North.

Mr Bush spoke with DUP leader Ian Paisley by phone yesterday, in his first direct intervention in this round of negotiations.

Yesterday, Dr Paisley confirmed he had had what he described as a long and useful conversation with Mr Bush at lunchtime.

“I told him I would like to be in a position to make a deal but that any deal must be fair and it must address to my satisfaction and my electorate’s satisfaction all the fundamental issues that have blocked progress for so long,” he said.

Dr Paisley said he had reiterated his party’s unwavering antipathy to the IRA: “We reminded the President of the fact that he would not have terrorists in his government and that we must be satisfied that IRA terrorism is over and cannot return.”

Last night, a senior Sinn Féin spokesman said that Mr Adams had not yet received a phone call from the president but that one was expected sometime today.

“We are assuming on the back of his call to Ian Paisley that President Bush will call Gerry Adams today. But as of now, no definite arrangement has been made,” he said.

The unexpected intervention of the president came shortly after the Irish and British governments presented an amended document to both parties, incorporating the points raised by Sinn Féin during ongoing negotiations last week as well as the 43 points of clarification raised by the DUP.

The amended document, setting out a way forward for restoring Northern institutions and an executive, is being studied by both parties this weekend.

It followed a frenetic two days of contacts between British and Irish officials following Wednesday’s Downing Street talks. A Sinn Féin delegation led by Mr Adams met British prime minister Tony Blair in London yesterday morning and there were high level contacts yesterday involving Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern and his British government counterpart Paul Murphy.

It is not expected that either party will respond to the latest initiatives until tomorrow evening at the earliest. That will be quickly followed by another round of negotiations that will conclude within days, irrespective of whether a deal is struck or not.

SF sources last night accepted that a deal may not be possible on this occasion. A spokesperson said: “Sinn Féin has been involved for 12 years in the process. The DUP have not had that.

“They have had to move from a position of being hard-line opponents of the Good Friday Agreement and to the process and have had to learn to moderate and nuance and alter their position. Signing up to an agreement may prove to be beyond them at this stage.”

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