Ulster talks 'must go forward'

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The Independent Online

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said there was "no reverse gear" in the Good Friday Agreement in spite of apparent deadlock after talks in Downing Street with Sinn Fein and Unionist leaders.

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said there was "no reverse gear" in the Good Friday Agreement in spite of apparent deadlock after talks in Downing Street with Sinn Fein and Unionist leaders.

Mr Hain confirmed after separate talks with Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party and Gerry Adams, leading a Sinn Fein delegation, that the Government was hoping an IRA statement expected in the next few weeks would provide a breakthrough. "There is no reverse gear in this process. It is a question of finding the right gear," Mr Hain said.

There is international pressure on the IRA to show it is committed to the peace process following the police report that it was responsible for a major bank robbery in Northern Ireland, and the campaign by the McCartney sisters to bring the killers of their brother Robert to justice.

However, Mr Adams, after a meeting with the Prime Minister lasting more than an hour, said: "Speculation about how long the IRA will take and the nature of its consultation process is not helpful."

Mr Adams insisted that the implementation of the Agreement was the only way forward. But Mr Paisley called for a "new beginning" in the peace process, declaring the Agreement was dead. Any moves to peace depended on complete and verifiable decommissioning of IRA weapons and an end to criminality, Mr Paisley said. "Until we have that we don't have a safe foundation."

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