Peace deal 'tantalisingly close' for Northern Ireland

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The Independent Online

The Government said yesterday that a durable peace settlement in Northern Ireland was "tantalisingly close" as it sought to clinch a deal between Unionists and republicans.

The Government said yesterday that a durable peace settlement in Northern Ireland was "tantalisingly close" as it sought to clinch a deal between Unionists and republicans.

With several deadlines already passed, next Tuesday is now regarded as the latest "decision day" in the long-running negotiation involving the republican movement and the Democratic Unionist Party, led by the Rev Ian Paisley.

The loyalist leader is trying to nail down the details of IRA arms decommissioning, seeking photographic evidence that the weaponry has been put beyond use. Republicans want to ensure that after such an IRA act the DUP would agree to share power with republicans in a new Northern Ireland executive.

With republicans keen for a deal, success or failure rests on the final call that Mr Paisley is expected to make early next week. He is scheduled to hold his latest meeting with Tony Blair tomorrow.

Yesterday, the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, emerged from a Downing Street meeting with Mr Blair to urge the DUP leader to "join in the collective challenge of peace-making".

He said: "A deal is still possible but an accommodation, a partnership of equals cannot be built through a process of humiliation."

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