Government ready to talk to Sinn Fein

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The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR will today announce the Government's 'working assumption' that the IRA ceasefire is permanent, opening the way to historic talks with Sinn Fein.

The Prime Minister is expected to use a visit to Belfast to announce the lifting of the exclusion order on Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, who met Albert Reynolds, the Irish Prime Minister, in Dublin yesterday.

Lifting the ban on Mr Adams visiting mainland Britain will prepare the way for talks within weeks between government officials and Sinn Fein, including Mr Adams, over their entry to the cross-party talks on the future of Northern Ireland.

Mr Adams was banned from Britain last year because of alleged terrorist links. In January, Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, refused to lift the ban. But a Cabinet committee on Northern Ireland, chaired by Mr Major, decided yesterday talks could begin in the wake of ceasefire declarations from the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries.

Mr Major will follow up the announcement by holding a summit with Mr Reynolds at Chequers on Monday to agree the final details of their joint framework document on the future of Northern Ireland, on which the hard bargaining between the democratic parties in Ulster will begin in the new year.

Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is expected to use a Commons debate on Ulster next Thursday to announce more details about the opening of talks with Sinn Fein.

The search for peace, page 7