Talks to include elections

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The Independent Online

Chief Political Correspondent

British ministers will seek to reassure the Irish government today at a summit in London that plans for early elections in Ulster are in line with recommendations for disarming the IRA, made by the international body under US Senator George Mitchell.

Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, will try to overcome Dublin's opposition to the elections plan in a meeting with Dick Spring, the Irish Foreign Minister.

John Major will later meet David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, as part of an urgent round of talks with party leaders to keep the peace process on track. The Prime Minister last night met Ian Paisley, the DUP leader, to discuss the plan for an elected body, leading to all-party talks.

The Unionists have proposed that the body could last for two years, but after talks with John Hume, the SDLP leader, who is opposed to the plan, Mr Major is keen to ensure that the Unionists will accept a time- limited body.

John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, yesterday underlined Irish anxieties about the plan in the Dail by urging the British Government to stick to the Mitchell commission report, which suggested that the decommissioning of IRA weapons could take place at the same time as all-party talks.