Blair rejects Adams plea on new talks

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The Independent Online
DOWNING STREET rejected pressure by Gerry Adams last night to call a crisis meeting of the main party leaders in Ulster to force a breakthrough in the impasse over arms decommissioning.

The Sinn Fein leader warned the Prime Minister that the stand-off with David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, was "eroding and corroding confidence" in the peace process.

Mr Adams told Tony Blair that he needed to call a summit meeting of the key party leaders and Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, with diplomatic support from the US President, Bill Clinton. This would force Mr Trimble to back down over his demands for IRA weapons to be surrendered before he will allow Mr Adams to join a power-sharing executive for the Province.

But Downing Street made clear Mr Blair was not planning to call a crisis summit. "There would be no point in the Prime Minister and Mr Ahern meeting all the parties if it was just to hear that no one was going to move," said a senior source.

The Prime Minister is keen to avoid plunging the Province into a crisis by holding a summit that failed to produce a breakthrough. It could also damage his own reputation, which was enhanced by the success of his efforts in the Good Friday Agreement.

All sides said after the peace agreement was hammered out that it would not have been possible without Mr Blair's personal involvement.

Mr Adams said there was a need to repeat the Good Friday meeting to refocus the parties on fulfilling the terms of the agreement. However there is disagreement over the interpretation of the deal.

Mr Trimble is adamant that the peace agreement requires the IRA to decommission its weapons. He refused to allow the shadow executive to be established by the 31 October deadline. He is now holding off until nearer the next deadline in February for the executive to be up and running.

But Mr Adams is anxious to show his nationalist community that Sinn Fein is making gains from the agreement. He complained to Mr Blair about the Army taking names at a nationalist funeral and about the return of Guardsmen Fisher and Wright to the Army after their release from prison for a fatal shooting at a checkpoint.

"Sinn Fein are keeping our commitments. The Unionists have not been keeping theirs. It is now up to the two governments to refocus the peace process," said Mr Adams. "The British Prime Minister has his own responsibility in this."

Reports at the weekend, suggesting that the IRA could begin decommissioning by the end of the year, were being played down last night.

Mr Adams said: "The IRA has taken its weapons out of use. It is on cessation, despite the activities of the Loyalists, the British forces on the ground and the refusal of the Unionists to keep to their commitments.

"I think it is proof of the good will of the IRA to keep to this political process."