The Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister are to hold a summit meeting on Wednesday to discuss progress in the Northern talks. On RTÉ radio, Mr Ahern said that he was determined to make progress, but it would be unduly optimistic to say they were close to a breakthrough. The Taoiseach said that there was unlikely to be a substantive breakthrough until progress was made on all fronts.

The North's First Minister, David Trimble, today signalled that a deal on IRA weapons may be close. The Ulster Unionist Party leader said that proposals had been put to Republicans as part of negotiations aimed at safeguarding the power-sharing regime in Belfast.

He told BBC radio that he thought the British government may have put some proposals to them, and added that the Irish Government has been putting pressure on them as well. "We hope they're going to come back and tell us precisely how they're going to put the weapons beyond use in a permanent and verifiable way. That will leave just simply the issue of policing and I hope that can be sorted out without too much controversy," said Mr Trimble.

Mr Trimble added he was prepared to go along with the police service envisaged in the Police Act but he wanted a review of the new arrangements in the future, possibly in two years' time. The UUP leader said that he wanted policing devolved to the Stormont Executive which would allow the new regime to conduct any such review. Mr Trimble's comments come as the new Northern Secretary, John Reid, prepares to meet the Northern parties in a bid to progress the building momentum for progress.

Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin Mayor of Sligo, Alderman Sean McManus, rejected Mr Trimble's remarks. Speaking at the Bloody Sunday memorial service in Derry Mr McManus said that Sinn Féin is always reluctant to respond to "what are clearly attempts by the Unionists to put a particular spin on negotiations". He also claimed that Mr Trimble's comments on the issue of arms bear no relationship to the discussions in which Sinn Féin is involved. According to Mr McManus, Sinn Féin would not accept half-measures in a new beginning to policing and would campaign vigorously against a "repackaged" RUC.