Blair flies to Belfast to end deadlock

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TONY BLAIR flies to Belfast tomorrow to devote 24 hours to breaking the deadlock over decommissioning IRA weapons which is holding up the Northern Ireland peace process.

The British Prime Ministerwill meet all the main party leaders in Stormont in a day of negotiations before travelling to Dublin for his historic address to the Irish Parliament to underline closer relations between London and the Republic.

In a separate move to bring an end to one of the long-running stand-offs in the Province, Mr Blair yesterday met the Orange Order in Downing Street to seek a breakthrough in the dispute over the banned Orange march in nationalist Drumcree. The Orangemen protested to the Prime Minister about the Parades Commission which banned their march. Last Friday they held a secret meeting with Church of Ireland primate, Archbishop Robin Eames and his Catholic counterpart Archbishop Sean Brady. The Garvaghy Road residents association, Portadown, called for talks with the Organgemen but there was little public sign of compromise.

Mr Blair will be holding tomorrow's talks with all the parties to the Good Friday agreement to find a way through the stand-off between Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader and first minister in the new Northern Ireland assembly.

The Prime Minister was urged to intervene directly in the talks at a recent meeting in Downing Street with Mr Adams. Having taken soundings, he is now seeking to repeat the personal success he achieved in getting all sides to agree to the Good Friday deal.

Mr Trimble, who is refusing to set up an executive body with Mr Adams until arms have been surrendered by the IRA, denies playing for time. Having missed a deadline on 31 October, he now has until February next year to deliver the cross-border bodies which will assum devolved powers in Ulster.

A Unionist spokesman said: "Mr Trimble has made it clear he wishes to reach agreement on all these matters by the end of November. He has delivered on his obligations, Sinn Fein has not."

The Prime Minister and Bertie Ahern, the Irish premier, have privately agreed that the momentum must be maintained or the talks risk being bogged down. But Downing Street dismissed reports that Mr Blair will use his speech in the Irish Parliament to announce plans for a new Anglo-Irish council. "It's news to us," said the Prime Minister's official spokesman.

With Prime Minister's questions cancelled for the Queen's Speech, the Prime Minister is scheduled to arrive in Dublin tomorrow evening, joining representatives of the Omagh community at the residence of Irish President, Mary McAleese.

It will be Mr Blair's second encounter with people directly affected by the 15 August bombing, which killed 29 people and injured 250 more.

President McAleese arrives in England tomorrow for a two-day visit to Merseyside. President McAleese will unveil a memorial to victims of the Irish famine at St Luke's Churchyard and is to be presented with an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moore's University at the Anglican Cathedral. She returns to Dublin on Wednesday afternoon to greet Mr Blair and his wife Cherie, on their arrival.

t RUC officers fired warning shots to extricate themselves from a confrontation with an angry crowd in the south Armagh republican town of Crossmaglen on Sunday night, police in Belfast said yesterday.

Police and troops were taken out of the area by helicopter following the clashes, which took place after local men left a bar on Sunday night.

Locals said the security force patrol had verbally abused and threatened the men but the RUC said a mob had begun to kick and punch members of the patrol.