BELFAST, Northern Ireland - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made an emotional appeal to Northern Ireland's lawmakers Monday, urging them to overcome the final hurdles in the peace process that has transformed their blood-soaked land.
Clinton was bringing her star power to an issue she has been involved with since her days as first lady, when then-President Bill Clinton helped broker the 1998 Good Friday peace accords.
That pact is credited with ending the religious violence that had caused more than 3,600 deaths in Northern Ireland since 1969. But the U.S. secretary of state expressed concern Monday that peace could be still undermined by the economic crisis, the assassinations that still occasionally occur and bickering among politicians about the last steps in the peace agreement.
"There are still those looking to seize any opportunity to undermine the process and destabilize this government. Now they are watching this assembly for signs of uncertainty or internal disagreement," Clinton said in a speech to the Northern Ireland legislature.
She spoke from a podium in the well of the 108-member assembly, surrounded by people who played major political roles during what were known as the Troubles.
On one side of the paneled assembly hall, sitting in the front row, was the bearded Gerry Adams, leader of the Catholic party Sinn Fein, which was closely linked to the Irish Republican Army during the years of bloodshed. On the other side sat a stooped, white-haired Ian Paisley, the leader of Sinn Fein's nemesis -the Protestant-dominated Democratic Unionist Party.
At the end of her speech, legislators rose in a standing ovation for Clinton, the highest-ranking politician to address the body since it was created nearly three years ago.
Clinton met privately with leaders of the government to discuss the last big step in the peace process, transferring control over the police and justice system from Britain to Northern Ireland. The switch has been delayed by disagreements over budget and leadership of the Justice Ministry.
VISIT TO MOSCOW: Clinton arrived in Moscow from Belfast on Monday, primed for a heavy schedule of meetings today with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, when she is expected to seek pressure against Iran if the regime fails to comply with international demands to prove its nuclear program is peaceful.