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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 17:33 GMT

UK: Northern Ireland

Give leadership, Adams urges Unionists

Gerry Adams: Sinn Fein will be back to conclude review

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has urged Unionists to use the weekend to consider whether they wanted the political process to succeed.

The Northern Ireland peace talks have been adjourned for the weekend by review chairman former US senator George Mitchell.

BBC NI Political Editor, Stephen Grimason:"It's now down to selling the deal"
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern warned all the political parties involved that they would be making a terrible mistake if they did not approve the compromise on offer.

"We don't have any room to manoeuvre," Mr Ahern said at a lunch in the US.

"I have asked (Senator) Mitchell to stay through July, through September, October and now November," he said. "I am not going to ask him to stay any further. It is our job to sign on to his work."

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Mr Adams said: "Success in this process requires that those in political leadership fulfil their responsibilities and give leadership."

He said the adjournment provided yet another opportunity for Unionists to "consider where they want to go from here and whether they want this process to succeed".

He said Sinn Fein had demonstrated it wanted the plan to work.

He said the party would be back on Monday to conclude the review which is in its tenth week.

UUP denies rejection

Meanwhile, a senior UUP negotiator Sir Reg Empey, said reports on Thursday night that the UUP assembly members had rejected the proposals 14 to 13 in a vote were mischievous, with no basis.

Sir Reg said: "In fact a meeting took place this morning on the current position of the review.

"The review is still on the road and UUP members are going to reflect over the weekend and meet again on Monday.

"We understand the difficulties other parties are having but we ask them to keep their nerve."

George Mitchell issued a statement about the adjournment of the talks at lunch-time on Friday after a hectic week of developments and setbacks for the peace process.

In his statement, Senator Mitchell said the review had reached the final and most critical phase and admitted the past few days had been very intense.

"I have asked the parties to pause over the weekend and reflect on the magnitude of the decisions they have to make," he said.

[ image: David Trimble: Held a series of meetings with UUP assembly members]
David Trimble: Held a series of meetings with UUP assembly members
The adjournment came after Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble held a series of meetings with party colleagues to secure agreement on the deal tabled by Sinn Fein.

Mr Trimble was involved in a number of meetings with Ulster Unionist assembly members on Friday morning following reports that the deal, which reportedly includes a statement from the IRA, had been rejected by them at a meeting on Thursday night.

As the meetings were going on in Stormont UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said peace had never been closer during the opening of the Commonwealth Conference in South Africa.

"I hope very much that people will keep on trying to think calmly about this, have some patience, understand how extraordinarily close we are to a possible agreement and how far people have come," he said.

"We have never come this far before, we have never been this close. It's there within our grasp."

Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor has confirmed he voted against the proposals from Sinn Fein.

He said they contained "nothing new" and described Sinn Fein as an "irrelevance" because the party did not speak for the IRA.

For many unionists, only the actual hand-over of weapons would be proof that the IRA did not intend to return to violence, and these doubts have so far made agreement impossible.

The reluctance of the unionist assembly members to endorse the latest plan was not being seen as a rejection out of hand of the whole package.

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