He said he hopes his telephone calls to the Northern Ireland leaders would help the cause.

“I was just trying to be a part of the process of getting both Ian Paisley’s group and Gerry Adams’ group to the table to get a deal done, and close the agreement they’ve been working on for quite a while,” said Mr Bush said from his Texas ranch, where he spent the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend.

“Of course, the primary movers are Prime Minister (Tony) Blair and (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahearn of Ireland who have been working very diligently on this. I appreciate their efforts and anything else I can do to help to keep the process moving forward, I’m willing to do so,” he said.

Mr Paisley had earlier spoken publicly about President Bush’s call.

“I told him (Bush) I’d like to be in a position to make a deal,” Mr Paisley said, referring to a peace proposal put forward by London and Dublin.

“But any deal must be fair and must address to my satisfaction and my electorate’s satisfaction all the fundamental issues that have blocked progress for so long,” he said.

“I reminded the president of the fact that he would not have terrorists in his government and that we must be satisfied that IRA terrorism is over and cannot return,” he added, referring to Catholic paramilitary group the Irish Republican Army.

In Dublin, an Irish government source called Bush’s call a “positive intervention”, while Irish state radio reported he was also expected to contact Mr Adams.

Mr Bush has not taken a hands-on role in the peace process in the province, unlike his predecessor Bill Clinton, who sent former US senator George Mitchell to help broker the historic Good Friday agreement of 1998.