Adams joins peace talks

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Ireland Correspondent

Sinn Fein yesterday took part in its first tripartite round of talks with both British and Irish ministers in Belfast, as part of a series of discussions designed to lead eventually to all-party talks.

The meeting, in the Stormont estate on the outskirts of the city, is part of a network of talks which are meant to ease the two governments and the local parties towards full negotiations.

It is acknowledged, however, that reaching that goal is dependent on the successful resolution of the arms decommissioning issue.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said yesterday that the peace process was effectively on hold until the international body on decommissioning reports next week, and until the two governments respond to its recommendations.

The body, headed by former US senator George Mitchell, is due to meet John Major in London today for the second time. Its report is scheduled to be delivered next Wednesday.

Yesterday a Sinn Fein delegation headed by Mr Adams sat across the table from the Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew. This provided one of the first opportunities for camera crews to film Mr Adams and Sir Patrick in the same room. Government press officers displayed sensitivity on this point and hurried camera crews from the room after less than a minute.

Sir Patrick made no comment as he left the building but the Irish Foreign Minister, Dick Spring, described the meeting as "very satisfactory". Sir Patrick repeated the Government position that some IRA weapons would have to be turned in.