Ulster proposals expected next week

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JOINT British and Irish proposals for the future of Northern Ireland are likely to be published on Wednesday in Belfast, following talks yesterday between the two governments.

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, and his political affairs minister, Michael Ancram, met the Irish foreign minister, Dick Spring, at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin.

They said the completed draft would be put to the respective cabinets in London and Dublin this week for their approval and published "as soon as possible" afterwards. British ministers are expected to discuss the document on Tuesday.

Contacts on "minor matters of drafting and presentation" are continuing between the two sides over the weekend. The ministers said no further meetings between them were needed before publication.

Sinn Fein have advised the governments that publishing it before the party's annual conference next weekend could backfire.

Party leaders are concerned that instant reactions to the document from delegates who would not have had time to consider it in its entirety could risk destabilising Republican support for the peace process which has taken 14 months to construct.

Mr Spring stressed that "there are no political matters of substance between us," while Sir Patrick said the meeting "fulfilled our hopes and expectations."

Asked how the two Governments would proceed if the Ulster Unionist party rejected the document outright, Sir Patrick said : "I don't anticipate and I certainly never discuss on a speculative basis what would ensue if things went badly wrong.

"I don't believe in doing that and I don't believe they (the Unionists) will (reject it) either." Earlier, on arriving for yesterday's talks, Sir Patrick had said that he was "encouraged Mr Molyneaux is prepared to talk about the issues which will be addressed in the document."

lIrish government sources refused to comment on reports that the framework document will give Dublin a say in the future of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.