IRA offers 'permanent peace' but still no guns

Tony Blair's attempts to revive the Northern Ireland peace process received a setback last night when the IRAissued a statement offering no new initiative to break the deadlock.

In their traditional Easter statement, the provisionals insisted that they still wanted to see a "permanent peace" but accused the security forces in Ulster of seeking a military victory during the stalled peace talks. The message contained no new initiative aimed at breaking the deadlock in the peace process, instead blaming the Government and the Ulster Unionists for the impasse.

Coming less than 24 hours after Tony Blair flew to Ireland, the statement may disappoint some in Downing Street who were hoping for a more positive message. However, it had all the appearances of being a holding statement, as the IRA and Sinn Fein and others expect a serious round of negotiations will begin in Belfast after Easter.

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