WASHINGTON, April 10 -- President Bill Clinton, who played a key role in the final hours of the Northern Ireland peace accord, says the Good Friday announcement that a pact has been reached offers "hope over hate" and the "promise of the future over the poison of the past."
Clinton said, "After a 30-year winter of sectarian violence, Northern Ireland today has the promise of a springtime of peace. The agreement that has emerged from the Northern Ireland peace talks opens the way for the people there to build a society based on enduring peace, justice and equality."
He added, "The vision and commitment of the participants in the talks has made real the prayers for peace on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the peace line."
Clinton said with today's accord he believes there will be "significant economic benefits" for both Protestants and Roman Catholics "if this peace takes hold." However, he denied that the United States has made any new financial commitments as part of the agreement.
The president played a significant role in the final hours of the talks. Aides described Clinton as being involved in about a dozen phone calls to various leaders in the talks beginning at about 10:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Overnight and into the morning, Clinton spoke four times with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, twice with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, twice with Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams, once with Unionist leader David Trimble and twice with moderate Irish nationalist and member of Parliament John Hume.
Clinton said, "In terms of the give and take, you know, I made a lot of phone calls last night and up until this morning -- actually until right before the last session. But I think the specifics are not all that important. I did what I was asked to do."
White House spokesman Mike McCurry declined to say what specific proposals Clinton offered or suggested to the negotiators. U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and Deputy National Security Adviser Jim Steinberg were also in touch with the negotiators throughout the night and into the morning.
Clinton had some strong words of support for former U.S. Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell, who he said was "brilliant and unbelievably patient" in his role as mediator in the Northern Ireland peace talks.
At Stormont Castle in Belfast, Mitchell said, "I have no future role in Northern Ireland, but I hope very much that, in some small way, I have and, if possible in the future, can contribute to peace, political stability and reconciliation here."
He added, "As I have said on many occasions, I have spent nearly three and a half years in Northern Ireland. I have come to know, to admire and to like very much the people here. This is a wonderful place with wonderful people."