Trimble and Major in assembly talks

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The Independent Online

Chief Political Correspondent

David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, will meet John Major tomorrow for talks at Downing Street as the moves gather pace to find a way through the impasse over the Northern Ireland peace process.

Mr Trimble will lay out his plans for an elected Ulster assembly which he believes will help to break the logjam by giving the parties, including Sinn Fein, a mandate for negotiations between the parties.

Although the Social and Democratic Labour Party has been sceptical about the idea of proceeding to elections for an assembly early next year, the Prime Minister and Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, are taking the idea seriously.

Sir Patrick last night held talks with Ian Paisley, the Democratic Unionist Party leader, who will appear with Mr Trimble at a joint Westminster press conference today to mark the tenth anniversary of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. They will make it clear they remain opposed to the agreement, which gave the Irish government formal links and influence over the administration of the North for the first time, paving the way for the Downing Street Declaration.

John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, is expected to speak to Mr Major today to press the case for speeding up the move to all-party talks within six weeks of a commission to oversee the decommissioning of weapons.

It had been planned to make the contact yesterday, but last night Irish sources said it was expected to be postponed as Mr Major was busy holding a pre-Queen's Speech reception for the Cabinet at Number Ten.

The Irish Prime Minister defended his controversial speech urging British action to advance the peace initiative. He told the Dail: "My view of my position as elected Taoiseach here is encompassing all the people who live on this island."

Dublin speculation indicated that he may request a face-to-face mini- summit with Mr Major to resolve their differences over the current peace process impasse.