Blair visits Belfast for new peace talks

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TONY BLAIR flew into Belfast last night to meet political party leaders amid expectations of a minor breakthrough in the flagging Northern Ireland peace process.

Participating in discussions with the Prime Minister were David Trimble, first minister designate, his Nationalist deputy, Seamus Mallon, and the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams.

Insiders from across the political spectrum said that while they did not expect the central arms decommissioning issue to be resolved, they did anticipate progress in less contentious areas such as the new north- south structures and the structure of a new Northern Ireland government.

The political tone for the day was set by Seamus Mallon of the SDLP, the deputy first minister designate, who said he was hopeful that remaining difficulties could soon be overcome.

Mr Trimble, the Unionist leader, said that a deal was very close on the shape of a new executive and cross-border bodies.

Mr Adams said: "I welcome the visits. This type of focused approach secured the Good Friday agreement."