Deal on Ulster delayed to September: Talks continue on cross-border powers as Sinn Fein dampens hopes of a ceasefire. Colin Brown and David McKittrick report

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The Independent Online
A DEAL on the future of Northern Ireland will be delayed until a summit in September between John Major and Albert Reynolds, the Irish Prime Minister, according to sources in London.

A framework document will not be ready for the meeting between Mr Major and Mr Reynolds later this month, although expectations were raised at the Corfu summit that the document would be ready by mid-July.

Yesterday, Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, sought to dampen speculation of an IRA ceasefire as Sinn Fein finalises its response to the Downing Street declaration. 'The present intense speculation about the possibility of an IRA ceasefire in this climate is unhelpful and wholly misinformed,' he said.

His words are being taken as a signal that the hopes for a positive move from the IRA are almost certainly about to be dashed. Although few have been expecting a complete cessation of the campaign in the near future, rumours have persisted of a possible three-month ceasefire. Sinn Fein has repeatedly delayed giving its definitive response to the declaration.

This is now promised for late this month, when a special delegate conference of Sinn Fein members will be asked to endorse a statement being formulated by the party executive.

Mr Adams's words and the summit delay underline the difficulties faced by Dublin and London in making progress in the detail over cross-border bodies for Ireland responsible for tourism, energy, and transport.

The key summit will now not take place until after the August marching season in Northern Ireland, when antagonisms between the repubican and loyalist communities are heightened. The two governments believe Sinn Fein will attempt to exert pressure, but they are determined to resist the temptation to become engaged in formal negotiations with the IRA-Sinn Fein until there is a permanent cessation of violence.

The stumbling blocks in the Anglo-Irish talks are the insistence by Mr Reynolds on cross-border bodies having executive powers and his determination to hold back any compromise on articles two and three of the Irish constitution, laying claim to the North, until the last moment in the talks. The Irish government believes Mr Major is ready to concede the case for some cross-border executive powers.

But Ulster Unionists have warned it would be a betrayal of British sovereignty. However, it is now clear that London is prepared to make that step, underpinned by accountability to a new Northern Ireland assembly.