Sinn Fein rejects peace deal deadline as 'nonsense'

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Indy Politics

Pressure was mounting on the British and Irish governments last night to extend tomorrow's deadline for the parties in Northern Ireland to accept the latest peace proposals after Sinn Fein rejected the timetable as "silly nonsense".

Thursday night's bombing in west London was timed to destroy hopes of a last-minute breakthrough and may have been designed to halt any moves by the IRA to begin decommissioning its weapons.

Sinn Fein yesterday demanded more time after meeting John Reid, the Northern Ireland Secretary, at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, to hear details of the plans for the reform of the police service in Northern Ireland as part of the overall peace settlement.

A member of a Sinn Fein delegation, Alex Maskey, said the expectation of a response by tomorrow was "silly nonsense". He added: "As far as we are concerned there is no deadline in this matter other than the imperative of getting the Good Friday Agreement implemented.

"Obviously it is a lengthy document and it will take some time to study and analyse fully so we're not going to knee-jerk on it."

Proposals for police reforms, including cutting back the operations of the Special Branch, have been criticised by security experts. Sir Ronnie Flanagan, Chief Constable of the RUC, emphasised that the changes could only be introduced if there was a reduced threat of terrorism.

David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, and the other parties are due to deliver their official response tomorrow to the plans published last Wednesday by Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister.

The London and Dublin governments have until next Saturday to decide whether to call new elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly or suspend the assembly. That deadline cannot be stretched.