The DUP leader, Ian Paisley, has denied he ever agreed that policing and justice powers would be transferred to the Northern Ireland Assembly by 2008.

He was responding to an article written by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in which he said the DUP would share power in March if Sinn Féin backed the PSNI.

Mr Paisley accused Mr Blair of misrepresenting his party's policy in the Belfast Telegraph and The Irish Times.

This latest argument may create further doubts within Sinn Féin that the DUP is serious about the concept of power-sharing at Stormont by March.

Sinn Féin's president, Gerry Adams, has indicated there may now be a doubt about the party's special Ard Fheis on policing policy.

The Sinn Féin officer board is to meet in Dublin tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, and the Northern Secretary, Peter Hain, held talks earlier today in Dundalk, Co Louth, on the way forward for the peace process.

Afterward, Mr Ahern told RTÉ Radio's News at One that there had to be clarity from both Sinn Féin and the DUP that they will move the peace process forward.

He said the DUP had to make clear that they would move according to the timeframe of the St Andrews Agreement.

He said if this clarity was not established before the end of this month, the British government would decide whether or not to dissolve the Assembly.

SF demonstrated remarkable leadership - Blair

In the article, Mr Blair said Sinn Féin demonstrated one of the most remarkable examples of leadership in modern politics.

Mr Blair said ten years ago the very idea of the DUP and Sinn Féin in government together would have been thought absurd, but today it is a reality.

Mr Blair added that any other outcome would be a complete waste of what he described as a 'once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a lasting peace'.

Mr Blair said from his conversations with the DUP, he believed that if Sinn Féin met its commitments, the DUP would follow through on power-sharing by March and devolution of policing and justice powers by May 2008 or even before it.