February 10, 1996
Web posted at: 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT)
LONDON (CNN) -- Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams refused Saturday to accept a demand from the governments of Britain and Ireland that he condemn the Irish Republican Army bombing of a London office complex, but he did say he regretted the attack. Sinn Fein is the political arm of the IRA.
"I regret what happened, but the politics of selective condemnation have not been part of my politics," Adams said on CNN Saturday morning. (187K AIFF sound or 187K WAV sound)
The IRA sent a coded message to Irish television and radio Saturday morning to claim responsibility for Friday's bomb attack, which injured more than 30 people. At least two people died in the bombing -- police searching the rubble found the bodies Saturday afternoon, but details were not immediately available.
That attack occurred just minutes after an IRA statement announced the end of a 17-month long cease-fire of hostilities with the British government over control of Northern Ireland. The IRA called for the cease-fire in September 1994, but many members of the outlawed organization have been frustrated by the British government's insistence that the IRA disarm before all-party talks begin. The IRA refuses to disarm before such talks begin.
Adams acknowledged the IRA's responsibility for Friday's bombing, but added that British Prime Minister "John Major cannot wash his hands that there has not been one minute of negotiations in the last 15 months." (204K AIFF sound or 204K WAV sound)
Adams said that he hoped there would be no more violence, and repeated his call for urgent talks with the British and Irish governments.
White House officials said Friday night that Adams telephoned White House National Security Adviser Anthony Lake about an hour before the explosion, saying he had heard "disturbing news." But Adams said Saturday that he did not know in advance that the blast was going to occur.
Adams on all-party talks
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Adams accuses British of lack of sincerity in peace
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President Clinton, who traveled to Northern Ireland and London last year to promote the peace process, told reporters outside the White House Saturday that the U.S. was committed to ensuring that the process for peace in Northern Ireland continues.
"This attack was aimed at the growing prospects for a just and lasting peace in Northern Ireland," the President said before leaving on a campaign trip to Iowa.
Clinton said he spoke with British and Irish leaders by phone on Friday, offering the assistance of the U.S. to keep the peace process on track.
Clinton said he hoped reports that the IRA had renounced the cease-fire were untrue, calling the cease-fire "the greatest gift of all to the people of Northern Ireland."
"The people of Northern Ireland have chosen peace," he said. "They do not deserve to have a small group choose bloodshed and violence."
As the sun rose Saturday over the remains of the Docklands office complex in London, the British government challenged Sinn Fein to condemn the bomb that ripped through the east London development.
"People who hear no condemnation from Gerry Adams or from (Sinn Fein's) Martin McGuinness are going to be very skeptical if it is said they are quite separate from what took place yesterday," said Northern Ireland Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew on BBC radio.
Sir John Wheeler, Northern Ireland's security minister, said that the British government would consider the talks that Adams asked for -- if Sinn Fein distances itself from the bombing.
"There is still time for that, but it is running out," Wheeler said.
Police were warned about Friday's bomb blast, giving them enough time to evacuate much of the area. But investigators say the bomb was designed to kill.
"This shows the callous disregard these people have for human life," said Assistant Police Commissioner Anderson Dunn. "I say this on the basis that it was Friday evening and thousands of people were turning out of business premises to go home for the weekend and there were hundreds of children attending a basketball match at the (nearby) London Arena."
The bomb, a half a ton of explosives packed into a van, exploded near the South Quay railway station.
Queen Elizabeth also condemned the bombing in a strongly- worded message to Prime Minister Major.
"My thoughts are also with all those who continue so tirelessly in the search for lasting peace," the Queen wrote. "I pray that their resolve will remain steady despite this sickening act of violence."
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