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EDITIONS
Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
Trimble offers olive branch
UUP leader David Trimble
David Trimble is facing another crucial party meeting
The Ulster Unionist leader has asked for a meeting with an anti-Agreement MP ahead of this weekend's ruling council meeting over power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

As the battle for control of the party escalates, David Trimble has said he wants to talk to Jeffrey Donaldson in the interests of "avoiding confrontation".

Both men are attempting to persuade grass roots members to back their plans and have sent letters to the 860-strong ruling council asking for their support.

Mr Trimble has said he is seeking the meeting on the basis that Mr Donaldson's letter indicates a desire to preserve the assembly.

Mr Donaldson has said he is still considering the request and any such meeting would be unlikely to take place before Friday.

He also suggested any meeting would involve senior party officers.

In his letter to delegates, Mr Trimble acknowledges there are problems with the peace process, but insists it has also brought economic and social benefits.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson
Jeffrey Donaldson: "We want to know what the government is going to do"

Mr Trimble said bringing down the power-sharing executive was not the answer.

On Wednesday, plans for independent monitoring of paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland were announced by the secretary of state.

Mr Trimble's letter argues that the violence monitor is a useful tool to keep pressure on republicans not to violate democratic principles.

It also suggests that a negative report from the monitor could force the government to act and that if the governments fails to act, he will.

However, Lagan Valley MP Mr Donaldson's letter suggests the proposed violence monitor is no substitute for resolute action.

'Blind eye'

The anti-Agreement unionist promises to table a plan that would focus on the need to preserve the assembly while offering an effective mechanism to exclude Sinn Fein from power-sharing.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Thursday, Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid denied the plan was designed to help Mr Trimble ahead of the weekend meeting of his party's ruling council.

He said the monitor had an important role to play.

"It is to make absolutely plain that wild west behaviour will not be tolerated," he said.

Dr John Reid: Secretary of state
Dr John Reid: "Wild west behaviour will not be tolerated"

"It is also to see that everyone involved, right across the law and order and justice system, is operating together in a seamless unit aimed at getting better product at the end of it."

However, Mr Donaldson said he did not think the move would go any way to addressing the extent of the problem of paramilitary violence in the province.

"John Reid has turned a blind eye to the IRA and to the loyalist paramilitaries and what they have been doing," he said.

"We want to know what the government is now going to do in respect of the broken ceasefires that have already occurred."

The independent auditor is expected to issue quarterly reports, with the first to be delivered before Christmas.

However, the political and legal decision on whether a ceasefire has been broken or not will rest with Dr Reid.

Last year, Dr Reid declared the ceasefires of the largest loyalist organisation the Ulster Defence Association and the Loyalist Volunteer Force invalid.

Since then, loyalists close to the UDA leadership have met Dr Reid.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's political editor Mark Devenport:
"It is still all to play for"
The UUP's Jeffrey Donaldson:
"We need to know what the government is going to do regarding violence"
Secretary of State Dr John Reid:
"Wild west behaviour will not be tolerated"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis

Analysis

Background

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

19 Sep 02 | N Ireland
18 Sep 02 | N Ireland
30 Aug 02 | N Ireland
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