- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Tension in Ulster
The Irish Republican Army, caught up in a spy scandal, must disband if the peace process in Northern Ireland is to succeed, the head of the leading Protestant party in the province said yesterday.
"The ball's in their court," David Trimble, the first minister of the Northern Irish Assembly, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
The British government suspended the 4-year-old assembly last month after the IRA and its political ally in the legislature, Sinn Fein, were implicated in a spy ring that had infiltrated Northern Irish political institutions.
Mr. Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said the scandal even threatens assembly elections scheduled for May 1. Unless the British government can get Sinn Fein and the IRA to cooperate by January or February, there may not be enough time to organize elections, he said.
The IRA and its Catholic allies, known as republicans or nationalists, want to unite with the Republic of Ireland in the south, while the Protestants, referred to as unionists or loyalists, want the Northern Irish province of Ulster to remain part of Britain.
"The problem is the republicans weren't prepared to give up their old habits," Mr. Trimble said, referring to the IRA's guerrilla struggle against British rule.
"They infiltrated people into office in order to give themselves political intelligence. The present crisis should bring home to the republicans they have to change. They've been caught. They've seen the process stymied."
He said his party is also getting tired of accommodating Sinn Fein.
"My party is saying 'Hold back.' The republicans must understand there is that change in the situation."
While Mr. Trimble was in Washington yesterday, President Bush's special envoy for Northern Ireland, Richard Haas, was in Belfast to assess the damage done to the 1998 Good Friday Accords that established the assembly and promoted close cooperation between Britain and Ireland in the affairs of the north.
Mr. Haas told reporters that he is hopeful a meeting of British, Irish and Northern Irish officials tomorrow will be an "important step to show the political process continues."
"But that said, I think we've also got to be realistic. I don't think we're going to start with a major breakthrough," he added.
However, he remained optimistic that "we will see politics in Northern Ireland conducted as politics should be, with verbal give and take."
Mr. Trimble met this week with administration officials, including National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and said he is impressed by the attention the White House is paying to Northern Ireland.
"This administration's representative has been in Belfast more often than the Clinton administration's representative was," he said.
Mr. Trimble said Northern Irish citizens are demanding an end to both Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups and still support the peace process.
"It's taken longer than I expected, but we are making some progress," he said. "While there's hope of making more, we have to stick with it."

Honoring Eban
Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon yesterday was the first to sign a book of condolences that the Israeli Embassy opened to honor Abba Eban, one of the Jewish state's foremost diplomats.
"Abba Eban was a statesman and a man of vision, a diplomat's diplomat," Mr. Ayalon said in a statement. "The staff of the Israeli Embassy in Washington commemorates with appreciation and admiration the memory of the late former foreign minister and ambassador."
He called Mr. Eban the "founding father of the special relations between Israel and the United States."
Mr. Eban, who died Sunday, served as ambassador to the United States from 1950 to 1959 while continuing as Israel's representative to the United Nations. He took up the U.N. post in 1948 and helped win U.N. recognition for Israel. Mr. Eban was foreign minister from 1966 to 1974.
"All Israel, together with her friends around the world, are saddened by the loss of one of Israel's most important statesmen," Mr. Ayalon said.
The book will remain open today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the embassy, at 3514 International Drive NW.


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