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BBC NI's political correspondent Mark Simpson:
"A challenge to Mr Trimble's position cannot be ruled out"
 real 28k

Friday, 15 June, 2001, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Ulster Unionist Party reinstate Weir
Peter Weir:
Mr Weir was suspended from the party in February
The Ulster Unionist Party executive have reinstated the suspended assembly member Peter Weir to the party, following a meeting in Belfast.

Mr Weir was suspended from the party in February because he consistently voted against the party line in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The fierce opponent of the Good Friday Agreement was told at Friday's meeting that his party membership can resume on 1 July.

The suspension prevented Mr Weir from standing as the party's Westminster candidate.

The general and local government election results were also discussed by the 100-member executive.

I have no intention whatsoever of challenging my colleague David Trimble for the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party

Sir Reg Empey MLA

The party lost three seats in the Westminster election and 31 seats in the local council election in the province.

The anti-Good Friday Agreement Democratic Unionist Party made gains at the expense of the UUP, increasing its number of Westminster seats from two to five.

Sinn Fein also won two former UUP Westminster seats in West Tyrone and Fermanagh South Tyrone.

Party leader David Trimble has resisted calls for his resignation in the wake of the elections.

However, the party leadership will be one of the main issues in the UUP's annual general meeting in a week's time.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Sir Reg Empey denied newspaper speculation linking him with a possible bid for the leadership of the party.

'Square up'

In a statement, Sir Reg said: "I wish to make it clear that I have no intention whatsoever of challenging my colleague David Trimble for the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party.

"The Ulster Unionist Party must hold its nerve and prepare to square up to its real opponents in the coming weeks."

The Belfast-based News Letter newspaper printed a front page prediction as to Mr Trimble's possible successor on Friday.

The paper suggested that a "dream team" dual leadership of anti-Agreement MP Jeffrey Donaldson and pro-Agreement Stormont Economy Minister Sir Reg Empey could unite the party.

Ban judgement delayed

The meeting came after judgement was reserved in Mr Trimble's appeal against a decision that his strategy of trying to put pressure on Sinn Fein on the issue of IRA arms, was unlawful.

Mr Trimble challenged a High Court ruling over his ban on Sinn Fein ministers attending North South meetings at the appeal court.

On Thursday Lord Chief Justice Lord Carswell said the court would give a ruling as soon as it could.

The Ulster Unionist leader introduced the ban last November in an attempt to force progress on IRA decommissioning.

Mr Trimble has not lifted his sanction, claiming the judgement allowed him to withhold nominations of ministers if he believed they were unsuitable.

Meanwhile, Mr Trimble's commitment to resign as first minister by 1 July if the IRA has not started decommissioning its arms hangs over him.

If he resigns and his party withdraws its support for the executive, the assembly would have to be dissolved because of its power-sharing rules.

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See also:

10 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble 'won't resign'
14 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Judgement reserved in Trimble appeal
12 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
UUP top NI council poll
12 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
UUP loses 31 council seats
23 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Hardline unionist suspended
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