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'Meeting is a milestone' says Peacemaker Bill as he jets in

FORMER US President Bill Clinton has welcomed the decision of Martin McGuinness to meet with Queen Elizabeth.

The two-term president, who was one of the chief architects of the peace process, said the upcoming event will be a major milestone in Anglo-Irish history.

Speaking to the Herald in Cork last night, Mr Clinton said a handshake between Mr McGuinness and the queen is "a very good thing and reinforces the peace process".

"I think it is a good thing for him. I think it is a good thing for her," he said.

"You know she (Queen Elizabeth) has become quite a big and important figure."

Mr Clinton said of next week's meeting: "It is what I hoped would happen when all this started (the peace process) -- that it would come around to that."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the upcoming meeting is "a follow through from the normalisation of relations which the queen and the former president brought to a conclusion in Dublin Castle".

Mr Clinton spoke to 250 people at a gala dinner for the Worldwide Ireland Funds at Ballymaloe House last night.

The 42nd US President was the guest of honour at the black tie affair where he met Nobel Prize winner and close friend, poet Seamus Heaney.

Mr Clinton arrived into Cork airport yesterday morning and made straight for Old Head Golf Links course in Kinsale.