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Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
"The discussions on Monday and Tuesday will be very intense indeed"
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Saturday, 7 July, 2001, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Reid plays down talks hopes
Weston Park: New talks venue
Weston Park: New talks venue
Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid has played down hopes of a breakthrough in the deadlocked peace process at next week's political talks in Shropshire.

Dr Reid warned the process was in a "critical phase" following David Trimble's resignation as first minister over the lack of IRA decommissioning.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern have summoned the main pro-Agreement parties for two-day talks at Weston Park, in the hope of breaking the political stalemate.

The political process is stalled over the interlocking issues of IRA arms decommissioning, policing and British Army demilitarisation.

Dr John Reid does not want to raise expectations
Dr John Reid does not want to raise expectations

Dr Reid said the negotiations, which begin on Monday, would be "very intensive indeed".

However, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday: "I wouldn't want to raise optimism.

"All of the parties know what the outstanding issues are, everyone says they are committed to doing their utmost to resolve them.

"So if people live up to their commitments on this, it is possible to do something, but I don't want to raise expectations.

"The talks of course are taking place outside Northern Ireland and I hope that will help concentrate minds on the resolution of those parts of the Good Friday Agreement that have yet to be implemented."

Planning

Dr Reid also appealed for calm on the eve of the Protestant Orange Order's parade at Drumcree in County Armagh.

The Portadown Orangemen have been banned from marching down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road, near Portadown for the fourth consecutive year.

Dr Reid said: "At any moment we could have difficulties here. I obviously hope that cool heads will prevail both in the province and during the talks."

David Trimble
David Trimble's resignation has left the process in crisis

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, has again said he is not optimistic of a breakthrough at the talks.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme on Saturday, he claimed it was time for the republican movement to deliver on the arms issue.

"On the past record there is not much to be hopeful about, but I hope they can do it. It is up to them. Let them surprise us, I hope they can."

On the same programme, the RUC chief constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, said he had no intelligence information to suggest that decommissioning was imminent.

But he said that was not to say that it could not happen.

The comments came a day after discussions between the pro-Agreement parties and Dr Reid at Hillsborough Castle. They were said to have been planning the shape of next week's talks.

Mr Trimble has previously said that the IRA's failure to disarm by the deadline agreed by the parties would be the main focus of the talks.

Launch new window : Fast Facts Primer
Click above to launch a primer on where all the parties stand on the deadlock

However, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has said the issue of IRA weapons would not be resolved on British or unionist terms.

Mr Adams said decommissioning could only be achieved as part of a genuine conflict resolution process.

Dr Reid is understood to have told the parties that next week is decision time.

There are now about five weeks for the assembly to re-install the Ulster Unionist leader as first minister or replace him, before the devolved institutions collapse under legislation which made the Agreement law.

However, the British and Irish Governments regard next week as make or break.

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See also:

06 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Parties grandstand before talks
06 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Talks continue over political deadlock
02 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Republicans must 'suffer' - Trimble
02 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Arms body: No progress on weapons
01 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
NI politicians react to resignation
01 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble resigns over arms row
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