Blair's Historic Handshake

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BELFAST: Bill Clinton did it on the Falls Road. Ted Kennedy does it all the time. And now Tony Blair has become the first ever British Prime Minister to do it, albeit behind closed doors.

Of course, shaking hands with Gerry Adams, which Blair did Monday during his visit to the all-party talks at Stormont, does not come without its drawbacks. Clinton was embarrassed when the IRA cease-fire collapsed only three months after he "happened to bump into" the Sinn Fein leader.

But in becoming the first PM since David Lloyd-George to go head to head with an Irish Republican even without cameras present Blair showed the world his confidence in the current peace process.

"This is a watershed," says TIME London Bureau Chief Barry Hillenbrand. "It's not just a show. Blair's put more energy into these talks than anything else in the last few months." With strong criticism from Ulster Unionists and opposition Conservatives, the 10-minute encounter also bears testament to the Labor leader's courage.