(By: Press Association)

Ulster Unionist Leader David Trimble rounded on politicians, including Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, for voicing their opposition to the invasion of Iraq.

His comments came as US President George W Bush prepared to jet into Belfast for a summit on the war with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Expressing condolences to the families of two Irish Guards killed in combat yesterday in Basra, the Ulster Unionist Leader said: “Obviously we repeat our welcome to President Bush who is arriving here later today.

It think we can take a degree of pride that the leaders of the coalition that are seeking to liberate Iraq have decided to have their summit meeting here in Belfast.

I am sure they will receive a warm welcome from the people here.

But those people and indeed the families of the Ulster and Irish servicemen who are engaged in Iraq will look on with a little bit of amazement and a little bit of hurt at the behaviour of those who are playing games with their so-called anti-war stance.

Because we look at some of the people that are engaged in that and we wonder when they became anti-war.

When we look at the Irish republican involvement in this, these were people who were quite happy to kill for an ignoble cause, who were prepared to pursue a war to undermine democracy and who now oppose the liberation of people and the freeing of them from what is undoubtedly an evil dictatorship.

So we look at the prancing around of some individuals and there will be a sense of hurt amongst those who are standing alongside coalition forces at this time.”

Mr Trimble paid tribute to the role of servicemen from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in the invasion of Iraq.

He said people in the Province would remember the two Irish Guards killed during combat in Basra.

He claimed their deaths illustrated the appropriateness of a vigil this evening outside Belfast City Hall organised by Second World War veteran and Ulster Unionist assembly member Sir John Gorman.

Noting Mr Bush and Mr Blair were planning to discuss the Middle East Peace Process, Mr Trimble hoped some of the lessons of peace making in Northern Ireland could be applied there.

His colleague, Sir John Gorman, claimed tonight’s vigil in Belfast City Hall for the soldiers in the Gulf would: “Give expression to the strong views held by those whose sons, daughters, fathers and brothers and involved in what is a pretty dangerous job in Iraq.

So many people have said that it does worry us that our loved ones are not getting the sort of support and understanding from people, particularly young people in the Province.

It does seem that it is not a terribly ostentatious thing to do to have a service and there will be a number of important people from the churches there tonight.

We want this to be a dignified thing – not a political thing.”

With anti-war protestors planning to stage demonstrations across Northern Ireland and near the war cemetery venue in Hillsborough, Sir John hoped that the opposition to the war would fade away.

“I hope it would die away as people see that it has been a very carefully constructed battle and which is producing a very small number of casualties and a result which may be fundamental to the peace of the world”, the North Down MLA said.


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