Ulster talks for Blair

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Tony Blair will tomorrow step up moves to break the deadlock in Northern Ireland, holding his first meeting with the former US senator George Mitchell, writes Stephen Castle.

Mr Mitchell, who is due to chair talks in Belfast this week, will seek clarification on the detail of the new Labour Government's approach to Northern Ireland's peace process.

Mr Mitchell's decision to stay on as the chairman of the talks - while not open-ended - is seen as a positive sign, indicating he believes progress to be possible.

President Nelson Mandela yesterday met Northern Ireland's most senior politicians, who attended a conference in the South African bush set up to try and break the deadlock.

n Opposition parties are maintaining a lead over Dublin's coalition government in the run-up to this week's Irish general election, according to the latest opinion poll. A survey in yesterday's Irish Times put an alliance formed by the Fianna Fail and Progressive Democrat groups 10 per cent ahead of premier John Bruton's coalition.