June 17, 2013

Obama: Northern Ireland peace will be tested

By Jim Kuhnhenn / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

"But over time, laws changed, and hearts and minds changed, sometimes driven sometimes by courageous lawmakers, but more often driven by committed citizens," he said.

Though Obama did not specifically mention Syria, his remarks on Northern Ireland recalled the fierce conflict there that has so far resulted in 93,000 deaths. For those looking for a way out of conflict, Obama said Northern Ireland is "proof of what is possible."

Obama and other G-8 leaders were expected to discuss Syria Monday night over a working dinner. Obama will be looking to Britain and France to join him in sending weapons to the Syrian opposition.

Casting a shadow over the summit are new revelations by the Guardian newspaper that the British eavesdropping agency GCHQ repeatedly hacked into foreign diplomats' phones and emails when the U.K. hosted international conferences, including a 2009 Group of 20 summit in London. The report follows recent disclosures about the U.S. government's own surveillance programs and could lead to awkward conversation as the leaders open another international gathering that Britain is hosting.

Despite an agenda devoted to trade, economic growth and international tax issues, the G-8 will be eclipsed by discussions over how to address the two-year-old civil war in Syria and the decision by the United States to begin supplying rebels with military aid.

Obama's meeting with Russia's Putin later Monday will highlight the rift between their countries in addressing fierce fighting in Syria. While Putin has called for negotiated peace talks, he has not called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power, and he remains one of Assad's strongest political and military allies.

In a likely preview of his discussions with Obama, Putin defended Russia's continuing supply of weapons to Assad's military in a meeting Sunday with Cameron, the British leader.

Putin said Russia was providing arms "to the legitimate government of Syria in full conformity with the norms of international law."

The White House is not expecting any breakthrough with Putin on Syria during Putin's meeting with Obama.

Obama is making his first visit to Northern Ireland, though he visited the neighboring Republic of Ireland in 2011. That trip included a public speech in the center of Dublin, as well as a stop in the village of Moneygall, where Obama's great-great-great grandfather was born. The president called that visit "magical."

First lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, who also made the trip from Washington, were to spend Monday and Tuesday in Dublin while the president attended the G-8 summit. Later Tuesday, the first family departs for Germany, where the president will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and speak at the Brandenburg Gate.

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