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Bush, Northern Ireland Leaders Meet at White House


U.S. President George Bush met at the White House Friday with the First Minister of Northern Ireland Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

This is the first time Paisley and McGuinness have traveled together to the United States since agreeing to a new power-sharing arrangement earlier this year.

President Bush says the protestant cleric Paisley and the former pro-Catholic Irish Republican Army militant McGuiness are writing a hopeful chapter in a troubled history.

"These two men are dedicating themselves to bettering Northern Ireland through their courage and conviction and desire to put aside the past and focus on a hopeful future," he said.

Northern Ireland's power-sharing assembly follows the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accords, which were brokered with help from the United States. The assembly was suspended in 2002 and restored only with intensive efforts by Britain and Ireland.

Paisley says the challenge now is to keep the peace they have found.

"We have had our political squabbles and fights," he said. "I think we have come to the end of that. I think that peace has come. There will be a fight for peace. If you want peace, you have to fight to keep it."

Both men are hoping for more direct investment from the United States, which McGuinness says is key to the nation's future.

"We have transformed the political situation," he said. "What we now need to do, as you have correctly identified, is transform the economic situation so we can give our young people in particular a better future."

President Bush says he is encouraging American business leaders to take a good look at the economic opportunities in Northern Ireland.

The Irish Republican Army fought a nearly 30-year guerilla war against Britain, including numerous terror bombings in a campaign to unify with Ireland. Most of Northern Ireland's Protestants want to remain part of the United Kingdom.

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