Adams accuses Major of being threat to peace

John Major poses a greater threat to the Irish peace process than the hard men of the IRA, the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, said yesterday. He emphatically denied claims that republican hardliners were applying pressure for a return to violence but demanded full peace talks as a matter of priority. Mr Adams, who has repeatedly accused the Government of dragging its feet, said that there was frustration in nationalist areas at the lack of progress.

But the Irish opposition leader, Bertie Ahern, on a ground-breaking visit to Belfast City Hall, insisted London was not stalling. He said that delays in drawing up the "framework document" outlining the direction of talks were partly due to the pre-Christmas political crisis in Dublin.

Sinn Fein - believed to be under pressure from the IRA - believes the document is irrelevant to the start of full talks with the Government.

Mr Adams said IRA hardliners were not threatening the peace process. "There is a lot of disillusionment. There is universally, throughout nationalist Ireland, a sense of the British Government being begrudging about this entire process."

The media should be wary of acting as a mouthpiece for Government "propaganda" that the IRA was placing the process at risk. Mr Adams dismissed as a "distraction" British calls for the IRA to give up its arms as an pre-condition to full talks.

"John Major is saying to the people of Britain that he will not engage in those type of talks with Sinn Fein representatives unless the IRA decommissions its weapons.

"Is he saying that the peace process is over? Is that what he is telling the people of Britain - that the best opportunity for 75 years to bring about peace is going to be rejected, is going to be squandered because he refuses to recognise the rights of Sinn Fein voters?"

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