PRESIDENT Bill Clinton yesterday lavished praise on the British and Irish prime ministers for having the courage to push ahead with their new agreement for peace in Northern Ireland. Speaking at No 10 Downing Street just 12 hours after John Major and John Bruton agreed to a new framework to enable all-party talks to begin, Mr Clinton was effusive in his praise. 'I cannot say enough to the British people how much I appreciate the Prime Minister taking this kind of risk for peace,' he said. 'This was not an easy action for him to take, not an easy action for Prime Minister Bruton to take. Very often people who take risks for peace are not appreciated for doing so.' Mr Major said: 'It was simply that we saw that a deal needed to be reached if we were to gain momentum and carry this process forward.' Earlier, within just hours of arriving in London, Mr Clinton scored his first public relations success in an unscheduled walkabout. The two leaders left behind their official cars and braved the November drizzle to walk from Westminster Abbey to No 10. Mr Clinton's first step was to lay a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, mindful of the fact he had been absent for VE-Day celebrations in May. Nobody had wanted the President's trip to be overshadowed by the peace talks and although the main purpose of the talks was to discuss US and British troop deployments to Bosnia, there was no hiding the delight over the Irish deal. Mr Clinton, who went on to address both Houses of Parliament, will travel to Belfast today, the first US President to visit to the city, and on to Dublin tomorrow for talks with Irish leaders. British officials were careful to play down America's involvement in the deal, explaining the US role as 'facilitating' the two governments to reach the accord. The agreement centres on the twin-track proposal of preparatory talks leading to all-party talks by a target date of the end of February and an international body to give independent advice on decommissioning terrorist weapons. Mr Clinton was accompanied by former Democratic senator George Mitchell, who has been his special adviser on economic issues in Ireland, and who was named by Britain and Ireland to head the decommissioning body. He admitted he faced a tough task in coming up with acceptable recommendations by mid-January. 'I expect it will be difficult. It has taken the governments themselves a lengthy period of time to reach agreement on this communique,' he said. But the word 'fudge' was being used by several parties as it became clear that many of the divisions between London and Dublin which have stalled the peace process for the past two months have merely been papered over. The Ulster Unionists said the two governments had merely postponed the date at which they would have to tackle the IRA's refusal to decommission arms. Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, has always said it will not hand in its weapons until further down the road to peace in case, in its terms, they are needed to 'defend' Catholic areas. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said he would respond before Christmas to the 'twin-track' formula.