Unionist threat over peace talks

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The Independent Online
Hardline Unionists yesterday threatened to de-rail tomorrow's peace talks on the future of Northern Ireland, either with or without an IRA ceasefire.

Peter Robinson, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, said that an IRA ceasefire of convenience would not merit Sinn Fein's inclusion in the talks process. He also attacked the choice of the American senator George Mitchell as chairman of the talks.

The intervention came as the Irish premier John Bruton made an eleventh hour appeal to the IRA to call a ceasefire which would admit Sinn Fein to Monday's negotiations. Amid speculation that the IRA might be prepared to declare a ceasefire, Sinn Fein's executive also held a meeting in Dublin yesterday which endorsed Senator Mitchell. However, it failed to provide any further indications as to whether an IRA ceasefire is imminent.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, Mr Robinson said there was no indication from the behaviour of the IRA that it was contemplating a ceasefire in terms the international community would recognise. However, if there was a "tactical ceasefire", the DUP would not talk to Sinn Fein.

Hitting out at the two governments for the appointment of Senator Mitchell he said: "Some of the players in this process think they can go off and take decisions and come along on Monday and impose these decisions on the rest of us. They are very much mistaken."

With the IRA Army Council said to be in almost constant session, Mr Bruton said the responsibility for ensuring that Sinn Fein could take part "rests with those who have the capacity to restore unequivocally the cessation of violence.

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