John Major and John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, were last night urgently seeking to rescue the prospects of an early summit to inject fresh momentum into the Northern Ireland peace process.
The two leaders had a further "substantive" conversation which failed to resolve the outstanding differences over London's insistence that the IRA should begin the process of giving up their arms before all- party talks on a future political settlement can take place.
But they are expected to speak again today in the hope of securing advance agreement in time for what one Irish source said was still the possibility of a summit on Sunday - before next week's visit by US President Bill Clinton.
The two sides have reached broad agreement on the "twin- track" approach under which an international commission would examine the broad issue of arms decommissioning. At the same time the two governments would begin separate preliminary talks with each of the Northern Ireland political parties - including Sinn Fein - on the outline of a longer-term political settlement.
While the Irish government is apparently no longer demanding that the British requirement for the IRA to begin handing over their arms should be part of the formal "remit" of the international commission, Dublin is suggesting that the commission should be able tomake recommendations on how the request might be fulfilled.
There have been complaints that progress towards clearing the final "roadblocks" towards a summit has been impeded by the influence exercised on Mr Bruton by John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, and Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein.
t President Clinton's visit has been postponed by 24 hours until Wednesday to allow him to make a national television broadcast on Bosnia and the role of US troops in the peace.Reuse content