18 January 2006

US congressmen in Belfast for talks with local parties

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
18 January 2006

A delegation of American congressmen were due to begin meetings with Northern Ireland's main political parties today as London and Dublin attempt to pave the way for a new round of talks.

Representatives Jim Walsh, who chairs the Congressional Committee on Ireland, Tim Murphy and Brian Higgins will meet the SDLP, UUP and Sinn Fein in Belfast today.

They are due to meet DUP MPs in London tomorrow for another briefing on the prospects for progress next month, when the governments hope to begin talks.

Last night, the congressmen met Secretary of State Peter Hain, who said Northern Ireland owes the US a huge debt of gratitude for its support for the peace process.

Mr Hain said: "The United States has been a good and loyal friend to Northern Ireland and the peace process.

"Through its support and encouragement, the American administration has helped to move Northern Ireland forward. Over the past decade, much has been achieved.

"Yet there is still more to be done and this is an important year for everyone who supports devolution.

"Both the British and Irish governments value the continued support from politicians on Capitol Hill who want to see the return of the Assembly, all party support for policing, the full implementation of the Agreement and a better future for all in Northern Ireland."

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