Major to reject Ulster summit

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John Major is ready to turn down a request by the Irish Prime Minister John Bruton for a summit on Northern Ireland before President Bill Clinton visits Britain, writes Colin Brown.

Mr Bruton said yesterday he had invited Mr Major to reconvene the summit in a fortnight to try to find a way through the impasse on the peace process before the US President's arrival on 28 November.

But Downing Street sources said last night that unless Sinn Fein agreed to make progress on decommissioning IRA arms, "the basis for a summit would not exist". That was taken as a clear signal to Dublin by London that Mr Major will not agree to a summit, unless a substantial shift takes place in Sinn Fein's position.

Mr Bruton suggested talks with Mr Major in two weeks in a letter to the Prime Minister this week. Mr Bruton said a reasonable target date should be set for the start of all-party, round-table talks, nominating six weeks from the beginning of the work of a planned international body to oversee arms decommissioning.

The plan is thought to have been discussed when the two men met in Jerusalem on Monday after the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin. On the same day, Mr Bruton had discussions with Mr Clinton, who has said that he hopes all-party talks can begin before his visit.