BELFAST, Northern Ireland, April 10, -- An official spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair says an announcement of a peace agreement for Northern Ireland is imminent. Blair's spokesman said such an announcement, expected sometime around noon (7 a.m. EDT) and ending decades of bloody sectarian violence, will signal a 'new beginning' for warring Catholics and Protestants.
Agreement has reportedly been reached after hours of frenzied, often rancorous, negotiations -- well past the midnight deadline -- in Stormont Castle, near Belfast. It was further reported President Clinton has been informed by telephone in Washington that an accord among all parties has been reached and is contemplating a visit to Belfast in May. Clinton reportedly spoke to several key participants in the talks, among them the leader of the moderate Social Democratic Labor Party, John Hume. Hume has told reporters awaiting announcement of a peace pact that the Clinton telephone call 'underlined the international good will for a settlement in this country.' Also forecasting success in the two-year negotiations is Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews. He said 'It's very likely there will be white smoke,' showing around lunchtime at Stormont. Andrews warned the announcement 'means that those who would seek to kill and maim will be sidelined by the historical relevance of this particular document.' Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said, 'We have hit over and over again until we struck a bargain.' While waiting for word of the outcome of negotiations, rival Protestant loyalists clashed among each other. Some shouted at the Rev. Ian Paisley outside the site of the talks when he arrived to stage a demonstration against negotiations. He promised to oppose an agreement 'through the ballot box. The people will have their say in a referendum.' ---
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