- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 1999

A confident man

For a man with a pack of trouble at his doorstep, David Trimble is remarkably confident.
The first minister of Northern Ireland, Mr. Trimble must hold together a feisty government of pro-British Protestant and pro-Irish Catholic political leaders who distrust each other. Some are allied to paramilitary groups, like the predominately Catholic Irish Republican Army, that waged guerrilla war for decades.
Mr. Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, the largest Protestant party in the province, is confident that the Northern Irish peace pact, known as the Good Friday accord, will survive.
That is the message he brought to Washington yesterday in a meeting with President Clinton and later at a luncheon with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
“I didn’t think the peace process was going to collapse,” he said, referring to the political crisis earlier this year that led to the return of U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who brokered the 1998 accord.
Mr. Trimble’s party had refused to form a government until it got a firm commitment from the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Fein, that the IRA will begin turning in weapons and meet a May deadline. That disagreement threatened to bring down the entire peace pact.
Mr. Trimble said members of his party “feared they’d just be strung along” if Sinn Fein just promised disarmament without being forced to agree to a deadline.
Mr. Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader, was able to get the two sides to bridge their differences and begin the process of governing.
“We’re not home and dry yet,” Mr. Trimble said. “We could still encounter serious difficulties… . But I don’t think the process will collapse.”
His party is scheduled to meet again in February to review the situation, and Mr. Trimble has written a postdated letter of resignation that would take effect if the IRA refuses to disarm.
The disarmament “proceedings have begun” under retired Gen. John de Chastelain, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States, Mr. Trimble said.
“It is probable decommissioning [of weapons] will begin in January,” he added. “Otherwise I would not be so comfortable.”

Embassy fears attack

Citing evidence of a planned terrorist attack, the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia has suspended most of its operations and will maintain only a skeletal staff until after the Christmas holidays.
“We have credible evidence indicating there is a terrorist threat to U.S. diplomatic installations, and we are acting on that information seriously and urgently,” an embassy official told Agence France-Presse yesterday.
The latest threat comes a month after the embassy cut back its operations out of fear it was being targeted by terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden, whom the United States holds responsible for the 1998 attacks on two American embassies in Africa.

Talks on Congo war

U.S. envoy Howard Wolpe held talks Sunday with President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to review efforts to end the civil war in the Congo.
An embassy official told AFP the meeting was a follow-up to a visit earlier this month by Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
“He came to brief President Mugabe on what Ambassador Holbrooke learned during his trip [to Congo and other African nations],” the official said, adding the two exchanged ideas on how to speed up implementation of an accord to end the Congo conflict.
“They also exchanged views on how to build on the momentum following Ambassador Holbrooke’s trip to the region,” he said.
Zimbabwe is Congo’s main military ally in the war that has also drawn in Angola, Chad and Namibia on the government’s side and Rwanda and Uganda on the rebels’ side.
Mr. Wolpe left Zimbabwe yesterday to meet Congo President Laurent Kabila. He plans to travel next to Botswana to ask former president Ketumile Masier to serve as a facilitator in peace talks.

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