Adams exclusion move to signal start of Sinn Fein talks

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Indy Politics
THE LIFTING of the exclusion order on Gerry Adams will signal the start of historic talks with Sinn Fein by government officials. But ministers are still maintaining a cautious approach to the hard bargaining ahead.

Officials will be ordered to insist in the talks with Mr Adams and other Sinn Fein leaders that the IRA surrenders its supplies of Semtex before allowing Sinn Fein to take part in the cross-party talks on the future of the Province.

Sinn Fein made it clear that it would be demanding the pulling back of British troops 'in a matter of weeks' in response to the cessation of violence. After yesterday's second meeting between his party and the Dublin government, leading Sinn Fein member Martin McGuinness said there was an urgent demand from the nationalist community for a reduced British military presence.

In the new circumstances following both republican and loyalist ceasefires, 'there actually is no need for British soldiers to be on the ground in the six counties, and they should all be removed now over the course of the next few weeks', Mr McGuinness said. Asked about the British call for the surrender of IRA explosives, Mr McGuinness said it was 'a matter for discussion further down the road'.

Malcolm Rifkind, the Secretary of State for Defence, this week said troops numbers could be reduced in response to the reduced threat, but refused to be drawn on timing.

Negotiations over the steps to be taken before Sinn Fein can enter the full talks with other parties about the future of Northern Ireland are expected to continue well into next year.

The Cabinet committee on Northern Ireland yesterday gave John Major complete freedom over the timing of the next steps towards building a lasting peace.

The Prime Minister was anxious to maintain caution and ministers insisted yesterday that their acceptance in principle that the IRA ceasefire was permanent is reversible if the talks process breaks down, and violence flares up again.