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Mitchell is `increasingly confident'

FORMER US Senator George Mitchell gave his first public statement on the state of the peace process since his review of the Good Friday accord began more than 10 weeks ago.

Speaking on the steps of Castle Buildings, Mr Mitchell said: "In my statement of 2 November I reported that my discussions with the parties were well advanced.

"I have, since then, met the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister as well as President Clinton and last week and today I have had further meetings with the parties.

"The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning has also been preparing, at my request, an assessment of the current state of the decommissioning issue.

"In the course of the review the parties have engaged with one another in an unprecedented manner.

"They have been exploring intensively how to implement the Good Friday Agreement on the basis of three principles relating to devolution and decommissioning agreed on 25 June, which are the focus of the review.

"I believe that the parties now understand each other's concerns and requirements... and are committed to resolving the current impasse. I am increasingly confident that a way will be found to do so.

"The pro-Agreement parties and the governments share the view that devolution should occur and the institution should be established at the earliest possible date.

"It is also common ground that decommissioning should occur as quickly as possible and that the commission should play a central role in achieving this under the terms of the agreement.

"Accordingly, I have asked that the assessment be made public promptly and the parties give their views on that report and, on tomorrow, the parties make public their positions as they have developed during this review on the issues we have been considering together.

"Shortly after these further steps are taken I hope to be in a position to issue a final report on the review.

"Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen."