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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 10:39 GMT
DUP waits for Irish clarification
Mr Paisley demanded an apology from Mr Ahern
The DUP is waiting for Irish premier Bertie Ahern to clarify his position on IRA disarmament before it lifts its boycott on talking to his government.

Party leader Ian Paisley was furious when Mr Ahern conceded, after a meeting with Sinn Fein, that photographs of IRA decommissioning were "unworkable".

The DUP said Mr Ahern later apologised for the handling of the situation.

But Mr Paisley said he would wait for Mr Ahern to clarify the matter in the Irish parliament on Wednesday.

He will then decide whether to enter into talks with the Irish foreign affairs minister in Hillsborough on the same day.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said Wednesday's meeting would go ahead as soon as Mr Ahern had set the record straight.

"We will wait to see what the taoiseach has to say, but on the basis of the apology that has been given and the clarification we expect tomorrow, then the meetings will go ahead."

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The DUP is meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing Street on Tuesday.

DUP sources say they will be looking to ensure that the government stands over its compromise proposal on photographic proof of IRA disarmament.

Secretary of State Paul Murphy said the issue of photographs was still "very important".

However, he was "hoping tomorrow with the Irish Government to be able to explore are there any other areas we can address that will allow that transparency to be sufficient in order to get the confidence that's necessary".

Mr Murphy denied the political process was unravelling or that the British and Irish Governments were at odds over the issue of photographs of decommissioning.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan is meeting the Taoiseach in Dublin later on Tuesday.

Mr Durkan said he believed the row over photographic evidence was diverting attention from other aspects of the potential deal.

Proposals

Last week, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mr Ahern published joint government proposals for power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

These included proposals for the IRA to allow photographs to be taken of weapons being decommissioned in the presence of independent witnesses.

The publication of the plans came after a "comprehensive agreement" between Sinn Fein and the DUP broke down over the issue of IRA weapons being put beyond use.

Sinn Fein said the IRA would "not submit to a process of humiliation".

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Speaking after meeting Mr Blair in Downing Street on Monday, Mr Adams said "the photographs are dead and gone and buried in Ballymena".

The political institutions in Northern Ireland have been suspended since October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.

The DUP and Sinn Fein became the largest unionist and nationalist parties after assembly elections in November 2003.

However, the two parties have not been able to reach a deal which would allow a power-sharing executive to be formed, and Northern Ireland continues to be governed by direct rule from Westminster.


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BBC NI Political Editor Mark Devenport reports:
"The DUP are continuing to emphasise the importance of photographs"



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES:
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