Blair tries to break devolution deadlock in Ulster

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair warned the political leaders of both sides of Northern Ireland's community yesterday that they must come to an agreement on the police and on power-sharing or the promise to devolve power to an elected assembly in May is off.

The Prime Minister said he was "confident" that the leaders of Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) wanted to see progress and would honour their commitments. "When there is delivery, there will be devolution," he said.

The DUP leader, Ian Paisley, has demanded an "upfront" promise that Sinn Fein would co-operate with the police before his party committed itself to power-sharing. Sinn Fein's leadership voted last month to hold a conference on whether to support the police, but signalled this week that the conference might be called off because the DUP response had not been sufficiently positive.

Mr Blair said: "I need both leaders to agree to this understanding. If there is delivery by Sinn Fein of support for the police, courts and rule of law within the St Andrews timeframe, then there should be devolution of policing and justice within that timeframe. It is only on this basis and with this clarity that we can proceed to an election."