Dublin presses for all-in talks

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The Government came under fresh pressure yesterday to break the deadlock in talks with Sinn Fein when Dublin backed the republicans' call for hastening all-party talks.

The latest warning of Irish government impatience came despite behind- the-scenes talks on a possible independent third party to oversee decommissioning of IRA arms. Insistence on a gesture on decommissioning is seen in Dublin as evidence of intransigence in London.

A joint statement after a meeting between the Irish prime minister, John Bruton, and Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, called for all- party talks on the future of Northern Ireland "as soon as possible". Earlier, Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, warned that the peace process was in crisis and accused the Government of acting treacherously. The statements add to a mounting sense of gloom and reflect the fear that republican leaders are coming under pressure from hard-line elements as the anniversary of the IRA ceasefire approaches.

The joint statement came after signals that the British government is considering the release of paramilitary prisoners as one means of easing the path to bilateral talks with Sinn Fein. However, this move is unlikely to bear fruit for several weeks.

Thereare still doubts in Dublin about whether the will exists in London to speed up moves to all party talks. The government argue, that without a serious public symbol of the republicans' willingness to hand over arms, the Unionists would not even consider entering all- party talks. Mr Adams warned of the dangers of failure. "If the British government cannot be persuaded to change their minds . . . think we are going down the slippery slope from whence we came."