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12 February 1998 Edition

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US advisor held by Crown forces

By Mick Naughton.

A SENIOR member of the US government was harassed and detained by the Crown Forces last Friday.

And calling for an explanation from the British government over the incident, Sinn Féin negotiator Gerry Kelly described it as ``another glaring example of the British military refusing to adjust to any notion of a peace process.''

Kelly was speaking after it became known that Virginia Manuel from the US Department of Commerce, along with North Belfast councillor Mick Conlon and a US national were stopped by members of the RUC's Mobile Support Units and British army as they left the Springvale Training Centre in West Belfast.

The trio had been travelling to another economic meeting with representatives from nationalist areas of North Belfast when they were stopped near Lanark Way. The RUC challenged Ms Manuel to explain her presence in Belfast and illegally asked her to provide her date of birth, which she refused to comply with.

Meanwhile the other US national, the owner of the vehicle in which the trio were travelling, was being grilled as to how she could obtain ``such a nice car.''

Councillor Conlon, who travelled with Ms Manuel, described the incident as ``extremely worrying, given the fact that if the Crown Forces feel confident enough to illegally challenge a US government official, what are they doing to those in our community who have no diplomatic clout?''
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