- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

Northern Irish support
The leader of Northern Ireland's largest political party came to Washington this week, expressing strong support for the U.S. position on Iraq and denouncing Irish critics who oppose a likely war.
"The United States is poised to fight what I believe is a just war against a fascist dictator in the Middle East," said David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.
Mr. Trimble criticized Sinn Fein, the political party aligned with the outlawed Irish Republican Army.
"The U.S. is right to pursue Saddam [Hussein] and remove him from power, but Sinn Fein sides with the Iraqi tyrant and against America. Why?" he asked rhetorically in a statement released upon his departure from Belfast this week.
"Perhaps [they] see Saddam as not such bad guy. Maybe they see him as someone who is misunderstood. Maybe they believe he didn't murder, torture and terrorize opponents and ethnic minorities in his own country. Maybe they didn't notice the unprovoked and aggressive wars he launched on his neighbors."
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is also here, along with leaders of other Northern Irish political parties, for the annual St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House.
Last month his party called on the United States to "desist from war preparations" against Iraq and allow the United Nations to continue arms inspections.
"The issue of weapons of mass destruction allegedly held by Iraq is currently being dealt with in a most comprehensive manner under the auspices of the United Nations," the party said in a letter to Jane Benton Fort, charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin.
Mr. Trimble yesterday told supporters at a breakfast meeting that he is disappointed by the continuing political logjam that led to the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly in October. He blamed the Irish Republican Army for failing to keep a pledge to disarm and abandon its terrorist campaign aimed at uniting British Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.
Mr. Trimble was first minister of Northern Ireland before the assembly was suspended.

Green at White House
President Bush praised Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern for his efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland, as the two leaders met at the White House yesterday for their annual shamrock ceremony.
Mr. Bush wore a green tie in honor of St. Patrick's Day, which falls on Monday, and pledged U.S. help to restore the peace process that was derailed by the failure of the Irish Republican Army and other paramilitary groups to disarm and cease hostilities.
"Recent years have seen historic progress," Mr. Bush said. "Now our parties can and must build on this progress so that the people of Northern Ireland can replace old resentments with new cooperation and new hope."
Mr. Ahern presented Mr. Bush with a bowl of shamrocks as a "symbol of unity" between the United States and Ireland. He said he hopes to break the political deadlock in time for Northern Ireland elections May 29.

Ireland fund restored
Rep. Christopher H. Smith this week restored funds to a key program that promotes peace and investment in Northern Ireland.
The New Jersey Republican succeeded in getting the House International Relations Committee to provide $25 million this year to the International Fund for Ireland (IFI). President Bush had asked for only $8.5 million. Mr. Smith's bill provides for $50 million over two years.
"It would be a tragic mistake if, at this hour, the U.S. reduces its contribution to the IFI and was perceived to be retreating from its very visible and active role in the peace process," said Mr. Smith, the committee vice chairman.
He noted that he recently returned from a visit to Northern Ireland and, despite the political deadlock, found many improvements in relations between the Protestant majority and Catholic minority in the British province.
"There are many signs of hope, and restoring funds to the IFI will help us attain our goal of securing a just and lasting peace," he said.
The fund was established by the British and Irish governments in 1986 and receives foreign funding from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union.

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