Breakdown in talks blamed on Major

Peace process: McGuinness pushes for all-party dialogue as INRA bombers seek to wreck ceasefire after split from Sinn Fein
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The Independent Online

The British government is presiding over the destruction of the Irish peace process Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, said on a visit to London yesterday.

Mr McGuinness was in the capital to highlight the breakdown of negotiations last week between Sinn Fein and the British government and to try and win international backing.

The talks foundered over the decommissioning of arms and convening all-party negotiations on Northern Ireland's future. Despite intense Anglo- Irish diplomacy and a series of meetings between Michael Ancram, the Northern Ireland Minister, and Mr McGuinness, the two sides seem no closer to agreement than before talks started several months ago.

Sinn Fein wants all-party talks to discuss the province's future but steadfastly refuses to hand over any IRA arms. The British government insists that arms should be decommissioned before the talks begin.

Mr McGuinness said the insistence on the decommissioning of IRA arms was a thinly veiled attempt to force their surrender. He said that a surrender "was not on offer to them".

He said Sinn Fein's work to build the peace process had been undermined by John Major. As a result, he said, Mr Major was presiding over the death of the peace process.

"If we don't resolve the conflict, the potential for further conflict will always be there. I am not making threats. I am stating a political fact of history," Mr McGuinness said.

The Northern Ireland Office insisted it was not seeking an IRA surrender but simply wanted them to begin decommissioning their arms.

Sinn Fein is hoping that the President Bill Clinton's visit this month will help kick-start the peace process.