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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 21:48 GMT 22:48 UK
Stakeknife affair 'very concerning'
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen and NI Secretary Paul Murphy
Brian Cowen and Paul Murphy held talks in London
The timing and context of media reports on the Stakeknife affair are very concerning, the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister, Brian Cowen, has said.

Speaking after talks with Secretary of State Paul Murphy on Tuesday, Mr Cowen said he was worried about leaks and anonymous briefings, which he felt were an attempt to destabilise the peace process.

The Irish and British governments held three and half hours of talks at Lancaster House in London during which they discussed ways of moving the political process forward following the suspension of this month's assembly elections.

Last week, a man alleged to have been an Army agent in the IRA was named in the media.

West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci has strenuously denied accusations of being the informer, codenamed Stakeknife.

Mr Scappaticci, who is in his late 50s, is alleged to have been a senior figure in the IRA in Belfast for several decades.

He said he was not guilty of any of the allegations and said he was no longer an active member of the republican movement.

Responding to Mr Cowen's concerns, Mr Murphy said recent allegations would not alter the government's political commitment.


Human rights, criminal justice and policing, and the establishment of an independent monitoring body to assess the level of paramilitary violence were also discussed during the talks.

Prime Minister Tony Blair decided earlier this month that elections to the assembly could not be held, as scheduled on 29 May, because the IRA had given a "point-blank refusal" to answer his questions on its future intentions.

Northern Ireland's devolved administration was suspended in October last year, amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering in the Stormont government.

Richard Haass is meeting NI's political leaders in Belfast

On Monday, the US special envoy to Northern Ireland, Richard Haass, said he wanted to see elections to the assembly held "as soon as possible".

Mr Haass held talks with Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble in Belfast on Monday evening.

DUP leader Ian Paisley said he told Mr Haass at a meeting on Tuesday that the Belfast Agreement had not worked and a new agreement was required.

Mr Paisley said the American administration "had a cheek" to say that the DUP had to accept the deal or be marginalised.

Mr Haass rejected claims the political process was in crisis.

He said the failure to hold elections and achieve acts of completion was a setback.

The Sinn Fein leadership said that Mr Haass, who is due to leave his post shortly, should continue to be involved in the process.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness repeated their call for the assembly elections to be held in June during talks with Mr Haass on Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking after meeting Mr Haass, the SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, described their talks as intensive and constructive.

"There can be no go-slow on political progress," he said.

"This will diminish confidence in the Agreement, play into the hands of anti-Agreement unionism and endanger resolution of the present difficulties."

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