Ulster parties `as entrenched as ever' Mitchell arrives to find new deadlock Mitchell arrives to find deadlock

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The Independent Online
THE IRA warning to the Government against accepting the Unionist veto was clearly intended to put pressure on Tony Blair, in advance of his talks today at Downing Street with David Trimble, the Unionist leader, and Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president.

The statement was also intended to underline the need for urgency by the former US Senator George Mitchell, in reaching a breakthrough in the peace process.

Peter Robinson, the deputy leader of Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party, accused the IRA of attempting to "put a gun to the Prime Minister's head" to gain more concessions. He said there was a clear threat of a return to violence if the IRA did not get what it wanted.

"It demonstrates that the IRA are not committed to a permanent end to violence and are not totally committed to exclusively peaceful means," he said.

"It is not a matter of whether they are going to decommission, it is whether they are going to start their campaign again." Mr Robinson's party is opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and earlier he criticised the Unionists for engaging in the review of the stalled peace process under Senator Mitchell.

The US senator found the two sides as deadlocked as ever in talks in Belfast as he embarked on the review at the request of the Dublin and London governments.

Mr Blair today was expected to lay the ground for Senator Mitchell by discussing Mr Adams's plan for "sequencing" - allowing both sides to `jump together" - to achieve decommissioning of IRA weapons in parallel with the start of power-sharing. But that could be upset by the IRA statement.

After lengthy talks with Senator Mitchell, Pat Doherty, Sinn Fein vice- president, said republicans were growing sceptical about Unionist intentions towards the agreement and warned that the review must not be used to force further delays. Accusing Mr Trimble and his Ulster Unionist Party colleagues of being "in default of the agreement", Mr Doherty said: "We remain entirely sceptical about their intention to ever implement the agreement and bring about a devolution of power."

There was a grim reminder of The Troubles yesterday with the funeral in Belfast of a Catholic man murdered by the IRA 24 years ago. Eamon Molloy was the first of the "disappeared" to be buried. The location of his body was identified by the IRA as part of the moves towards peace.

Also, the tribunal team heading the new inquiry into Bloody Sunday yesterday admitted that a document naming soldiers involved was released by mistake. Gerald Howarth, the Tory MP for Aldershot, the town where The Parachute Regiment, is based, said that the inquiry had "lost all credibility".