Major's quantum handshake

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The Independent Online
(First Edition) JOHN MAJOR reaffirmed his confidence that lasting peace in Northern Ireland was attainable when he said yesterday that 'there is no question of this thing losing momentum', writes James Cusick.

On the second day of his visit to the province - and in the build-up to his summit at Chequers tomorrow with the Irish Prime Minister, Albert Reynolds - Mr Major said that hopes for peace 'had made a quantum leap forward' with his announcement on Friday that explorartory talks with the Sinn Fein would go ahead before the end of the year.

The package also included lifting the exclusion order on Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and vice-president Martin McGuinness banning them from the mainland. Mr Major rejected reports from Dublin that the Government had been dragging its feet on finalising the Joint Framework Document it is producing with Dublin or that the meeting at Chequers was a make-or-break one for the document.

Following Downing Street's acceptance of the IRA ceasefire, both governments now believe the way is open for no-holds-barred negotiations on the future of Ulster.

At Chequers, Mr Major and Mr Reynolds will attempt to overcome the final hurdles to agreement on the drafting of the framework document that will permit talks to get under way. Crucial to both politicians will be the stark recognition that neither can afford the summit to be interpreted as anything but another success.

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