Blair and Ahern to continue North efforts

Tuesday 21 October 2003 22.56
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Tony Blair
North parties need more time
Tony Blair North parties need more time
Bertie Ahern
Efforts to solve problems will continue
Bertie Ahern Efforts to solve problems will continue

The British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach have pledged to continue their efforts over the coming days with the northern parties to remove the remaining obstacles in the way of a resumption of the Northern Assembly.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said tonight that Northern Ireland's political parties needed a few more days to resolve the last minute problems in the peace process.

He told a joint news conference with the Taosieach Bertie Ahern at Hillsborough Castle that the two governments were privy to the detail of today's decommissioning act. Mr Blair said it was a pity that because of the confidentiality clause they were unable to put it into the public domain.

He said that it was question of trust and confidence and that the Ulster Unionists needed, what he called, more particularity about what had been decommissioned.

The Taoiseach said the two leaders were not going to abandon their efforts but would continue them tomorrow and the days after.

Mr Ahern stressed the importance of what had been achieved so far both in the setting of a date for Assembly elections, the very positive IRA statement and today's substantial act of decommissioning.

Serious setback for North process

There was a setback to hopes of restoring the devolved institutions in the North, with Mr Trimble deferring a decision on re-entering devolved government.

The Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, told a news conference that the announcement by the head of the decommissioning body that the IRA had put more of its weapons and explosives beyond use was not transparent enough.

Because of this Mr Trimble said he was deferring a decision on whether to re-enter a powersharing government.

de Chastelain confirms 3rd decommissioning act

Earlier, in his announcement, General John de Chastelain said the amount of weaponry decommissioned today was considerably larger than on the two previous occasions.

However, Mr de Chastelain said that because of confidentiality he was unable to go into all the details.

Earlier, the IRA confirmed it had put more weapons beyond use and endorsed comments by the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams who said this morning that republicans were pursuing their objectives peacefully, thus providing full and final closure of the conflict.

The latest developments follow the announcement by the British Government that fresh Assembly elections are to be held on the 26th of November.