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Sunday, 12 August, 2001, 01:54 GMT 02:54 UK
NI talks gain six week reprieve
The political deadlock in Northern Ireland has been granted a six-week reprieve following the restoration of the Stormont Assembly at midnight on Saturday.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid has said he believes there is "still time" for politicians in the province to resolve their differences over the peace proposals.

We now have more time but it has to be time with a purpose

John Reid

They are still struggling to find a resolution on the issues of decommissioning, policing, demilitarisation and concerns about the stability of the institutions.

The temporary suspension of the Assembly sparked fury among republicans, and there are still fears the IRA might respond by breaking off contacts with General John de Chastelain's decommissioning body.

But both British and Irish Governments have stressed that their joint Way Forward document, produced after last month's negotiations at Weston Park, was not up for re-negotiation in the weeks ahead.

Reid 'optimistic'

The Assembly and other institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement were suspended for 24 hours to exploit a legal loophole and buy the main parties more time for negotiations.

The Northern Ireland secretary was in contact with all parties involved in the process throughout the day before he made his final decision to restore the power-sharing executive.

An optimisitic Dr Reid emerged from talks with the Irish Foreign Minister, Brian Cowen, at Hillsborough Castle, near Belfast, on Saturday, to say he hoped the parties would now step up their commitment to the process.

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He said: "We now have more time but it has to be time with a purpose."

Dr Reid said everyone must use the six-week period to finish the job started on Good Friday three years' ago.

On Friday, he had claimed the chance of reaching an agreement was "tantalisingly close".

Irish Foreign Minister, Brian Cowen said on Saturday he hoped the anticipated publication of the policing implementation plan next week would act as an impetus to resolving the other unresolved issues.

'Complacency'

But the optimism was not shared by Sinn Fein, which accused Dr Reid of undermining the faith of nationalists and republicans in the political process.

They said Dr Reid showed "an alarming state of complacency".

The party's Bairbre de Brun said: "I think the British Government and the Ulster Unionist Party need to understand that nationalists and republicans also have rights."

The reason for the 11 August deadline was that if Northern Ireland did not have a first and deputy first minister re-elected by then, the assembly would automatically fall, and fresh elections would be triggered.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kevin Connolly reports
"Another crisis in the peace process is evolving"
Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
"I hope that our commitment is reflected in the commitment of the other parties"
Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen
"We need to re-establish the spirit of partnership"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough

Background

Loyalist ceasefire

FORUM

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

TEXTS/TRANSCRIPTS

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

10 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Sinn Fein anger over suspension
11 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Suspension - lesser of two evils?
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