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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
NI must 'abandon paramilitarism'
George Bush and Tony Blair at Hillsborough Castle
President Bush and Mr Blair met NI parties at Hillsborough
Northern Ireland must consign paramilitarism to the past and its politicians must accept proposals for moving the Good Friday Agreement forward, the leaders of the American, British and Irish Governments have said.

A statement issued by US President George Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said acceptance of the governments' blueprint would "promote the reconciliation that the people of Northern Ireland desire and deserve".

The statement came as Mr Bush prepared to leave the province following his overnight stay on Monday, during which he held a war summit with Mr Blair at Hillsborough Castle.

Mr Ahern joined the two leaders on Tuesday for a working lunch with the pro-Agreement parties to discuss the stalled Northern Ireland political process.

The break with paramilitarism in all its past forms must be complete and irrevocable
Joint communique

Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration was suspended on 14 October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the heart of the Stormont government.

The joint statement said: "These proposals, built on the firm ground of the Good Friday Agreement, hold out the prospect of enormous progress.

"They reflect our shared view that there can be no place in Northern Ireland for paramilitary activity and capability.

"The break with paramilitarism in all its past forms must be complete and irrevocable."

Proposals on anniversary

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern aer expected to return on Thursday - the fifth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement - to unveil proposals to break the impasse.

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, President Bush said he would be urging Northern Ireland politicians to "seize the opportunity for peace" during a crucial week for the province's political process.
I believe that peace is possible here in Northern Ireland - I am willing to expend the same energy in the Middle East
President George Bush

Mr Blair said: "Here we are, for all the difficulties in Northern Ireland, able to point back to real improvements in security and the standard of living of people here, and point forward to turning progress into lasting change, lasting security and lasting peace, which is want people want to see here."

Speaking before meeting President Bush, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said that "no deal has been done".

He said: "Issues like sanctions, the whole range of matters around demilitarisation and the transfer of powers on justice and policing remain critical and crucial elements."

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble described Mr Bush's words as positive and supportive.

He said the president had given a strong signal to republicans that time was running out.

The village of Hillsborough in County Down has been virtually sealed off amid intense security for Mr Bush's two-day visit.

There were protests outside Hillsborough Castle, with some demonstrators moved off the road by police.

Fourteen people were arrested after riot police broke up an anti-war demonstration outside Belfast City Hall.

Five police officers sustained minor injuries.

Those detained were among a group of more than 50 protestors who staged a sit-down on the road following what had been a more peaceful trade union organised rally at lunchtime.

Police moved in after appeals for the demonstrators to disperse were ignored.

DUP claims discrimination

Meanwhile, anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist MP Gregory Campbell said their voters were being discriminated against because the party had not been invited to the talks.

The party was offered a meeting with Ambassador Richard Haass, the US special envoy to Northern Ireland, but declined it.

Last month, Mr Blair and Mr Ahern held talks in the province, but failed to reach agreement with the pro-Agreement parties on a number of key issues.

Unionists insist on sanctions against parties who break the terms of the Agreement, however Sinn Fein object to the measures which they say are aimed solely at them.

Other controversial proposals by the governments to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly include allowing "on-the-run" paramilitaries to be dealt with through a judicial commission.

With an IRA statement expected some time after the joint statement by the British and Irish premiers, Mr Trimble is demanding that disarmament has to be both visible and transparent.

BBC NI's Conor Macauley:
"The two leaders used the NI experience to illustrate what could be achieved"

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