Agreement in Northern Ireland?

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LONDON: Never mind the posturing over Sinn Fein’s readmission to Northern Ireland peace talks -- today’s meeting between Gerry Adams and British prime minister Tony Blair revealed that the two sides are in fact close to agreement on a final settlement over the territory’s future, says TIME’s London bureau chief Barry Hillenbrand.

Although the meeting had been called to discuss Sinn Fein’s readmission, discussion moved quickly onto the issues that remain to be resolved as part of a comprehensive settlement. “The real news is that they’re within sight of an agreement on a new political framework for Northern Ireland,” says Hillenbrand.

The process may receive an important nudge forward next week at President Clinton’s St. Patrick’s Day bash: The guest list includes Adams, Ulster Unionist David Trimble, British Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam and other parties to the talks. And no amount of diplomatic discussion can match the peacemaking potential of an after-dinner drink at a White House shindig.