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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 09:37 GMT
Restoring devolution 'the goal'
Ian Pearson
Mr Pearson said the government is committed to restoring devolution
The government is committed to restoring devolution as soon as possible, the Northern Ireland Office Minister Ian Pearson has said.

Mr Pearson was speaking as the counting of votes from Northern Ireland's Assembly elections got under way on Thursday morning.

Votes are being verified and counted with the final result expected to emerge early on Friday evening, barring recounts.

"I think the important thing is that we see what happens today and tomorrow morning and see what the balance between the parties is," said Mr Pearson.

"I don't think we should look further ahead than let's count the votes.

"This government is absolutely committed to the early restoration of devolution and we hope that we will be able to do that when the outcome of the election is known."

The assembly was suspended more than a year ago and the parties went into the election against the background of a deadlocked political process.

A power-sharing executive will not be re-established at Stormont immediately after the election.

Instead, a review of the workings of the Good Friday Agreement and a further round of negotiations is expected to begin.



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