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US envoy plays down police vote tensions

The US government's economic envoy to Northern Ireland last night appeared to play down tensions over the UUP refusal to back the devolution of policing and justice powers.

Senior American political figures, including former President George Bush and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had privately tried to persuade the Ulster Unionists towards a “yes” vote. However, the US envoy Declan Kelly last night defended the right of parties to vote with their conscience.

Mr Kelly told the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust President's Dinner at Parliament Buildings in Stormont that major efforts were under way to attract new jobs to the region.

The US envoy also praised the overall efforts to bolster the peace process.

Mr Kelly said: “We recognise that in the past several days there have been difficult decisions to be made by all the parties involved and we respect the rights of every party to make the decisions it deemed necessary.”

He added: “Together, you must continue to resolve your differences and continue on the positive road towards a future of peace and economic prosperity.”

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