Talks to resume in Belfast

Representatives of the four main constitutional parties met for six hours in Belfast yesterday in preparation for today's formal resumption of talks.

No statement was issued after the meeting of the parties' business committee, which was to pave the way for today's discussions. Known as the 'second strand' of talks, they will concentrate on relations between the north and south of Ireland.

Ken Maginnis, Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, said: 'If we stick to realities there is a really good chance of progress, but if we get hung up on old cliches and platitudes it could be difficult. I am not pessimistic, and I am looking for considerable developments between now and Christmas.'