- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2000

Ulster's 'noble effort'

Sens. Jesse Helms and John McCain have expressed their support for the "noble effort" of saving the Northern Irish peace accord from collapsing because of the IRA refusal's to disarm.

Mr. Helms, North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican and a member of the Armed Services Committee, pledged their help in a letter to David Trimble, the first minister of Northern Ireland.

"We commend your distinguished leadership to ensure that the momentum for peace in Northern Ireland has been maintained while protecting the interests of the community that you represent," they wrote.

Mr. Trimble is the leading Protestant politician in Northern Ireland, also known as the province of Ulster, and head of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which includes parties from the Protestant majority and Catholic minority.

The failure of the Irish Republican Army to put its stockpile of weapons beyond use has led to a political crisis that is threatening the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which established the assembly, Mr. Trimble said this week in a response to their Oct. 25 letter.

Mr. Trimble said he is trying to force Sinn Fein, a pro-IRA party in the government, into pressuring the armed militants to comply with the peace pact.

The accord initially called for the disarmament of the IRA, which has been fighting for the union of British Northern Ireland with the majority-Catholic Republic of Ireland. The IRA refused to give up its weapons but agreed to stockpile them, allow inspections and honor a cease-fire.

Recent bombings by IRA dissident groups opposed to the accord and infighting among Protestant terrorist gangs has increased the tension.

"We commend your courage in seeking an end to the cycle of violence in Northern Ireland, while properly demanding the elimination of the means to project terror," Mr. Helms and Mr. McCain wrote.

Mr. Trimble thanked them for their "support and goodwill."

"We are committed to making the agreement work, but its implementation has been difficult," he wrote. "The central cause … has been the question over the IRA's commitment to peace and disarmament."

'Cancel the invitation'

The U.S. ambassador to Panama is complaining that the Central American country is jeopardizing anti-drug operations, but a Panamanian official retorted that the envoy is "out of line."

"The anti-narcotics operations were occurring routinely with all of the former Panamanian governments," Ambassador Simon Ferro told the Associated Press in Panama on Wednesday. "But this year they have had to be canceled."

He said the reason was the lack of an agreement with Panama to confer a special status for U.S. military personnel involved in the anti-drug patrols off the Panamanian coast. He did not reveal the details of an agreement the United States proposed earlier this year.

Foreign Secretary Jose Miguel Aleman called the ambassador's comments "out of line" and repeated Panamanian complaints that the U.S. proposal had too many conditions.

He said, "It is as if I had invited someone to dinner at my house, and the guest asked me to change the decorations, change the carpet, or that he didn't like the meal.

"If that's the case, then perhaps I decide to cancel the invitation."

Reassuring Pakistan

Neither Al Gore nor George W. Bush plan any change in U.S. policy toward Pakistan, the U.S. ambassador there said yesterday.

"The broad outline of U.S. policy toward South Asia and particularly toward Pakistan would remain unchanged, no matter who is elected as the next president of the United States," Ambassador William B. Milam told the News, a daily newspaper in the capital, Islamabad.

That may not be the message Pakistan wants to hear. The News noted that Pakistanis believe President Clinton has tilted U.S. policy away from Pakistan and toward its regional rival, India.

"George Bush attaches great importance to allies and friends … and he believes that if you're going to rely on allies in times of travail and difficulty, you have to respect them in times of peace and stability," the News reported.

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