A target date for transferring policing and justice powers to a revived Assembly must reflect opinions across the community on whether politicians are ready for the responsibility, the DUP has said.
Peter Robinson made the comments to the BBC
The party's deputy leader Peter Robinson said he did not object in principle to such targets.
The DUP has been resisting nationalist pressure for a fixed timetable for the transfer of the powers.
Mr Robinson said: "The target can only be realised if the community has the faith in the process that would follow - not simply because the calendar suggests this is the day it should happen."
He made the comments on BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme on Saturday.
The political institutions in Northern Ireland have been suspended since October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.
On Thursday, Mr Robinson did not rule out the possibility of his party talking to loyalist paramilitaries.
He told the BBC that if he met loyalists he would urge them to end their paramilitary and criminal activity and get rid of their weapons.
He was speaking on the Hearts and Minds programme.
During the programme, politicians were urged by a loyalist leader, Winston Rea, to speak to those with paramilitary and political influence in his community.
Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern claimed at the conclusion of the Leeds Castle talks last month that the thorny issues of IRA disarmament and future paramilitary activity appeared to be resolved.
However, the two governments were unable to get the Northern Ireland Assembly parties to sign up to a deal over power-sharing after unionists and nationalists clashed over future devolved institutions.