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Sunday, November 14, 1999 Published at 12:08 GMT

UK: Northern Ireland

McLaughlin optimistic over peace process

Mitchel McLaughlin: Refused to go into details of the proposals

Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin has said he is hopeful that Northern Ireland's political parties have "crossed the Rubicon" and will meet on the other side on Monday in the search for peace.

BBC News' John Thorne: Sinn Fein acknowledging new level of negotiation with Ulster Unionists
But senior Ulster Unionist politician Ken Maginnis has called for clarity and certainty from republicans as his party decides whether to accept the deal tabled when the parties go back to Stormont.

Speaking on BBC's Breakfast With Frost, Mr McLaughlin said: "Each party is now discussing this matter with their officer boards and with their structures. Hopefully, tomorrow we will see, I believe, both sides have crossed the Rubicon.

"We will meet each other on the other side, hopefully tomorrow."

Mr McLaughlin refused to go into the details of proposals tabled to try to move the deadlocked peace process forward after weeks of intensive talks.

The Search for Peace
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George Mitchell Profile
Link to Sinn Fein
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Link to Decommissioning
Speaking on the same programme, Ulster Unionist security spokesman Ken Maginnis said: "We are now up against it ... David Trimble has been a courageous leader but he is not foolhardy. He is not going to try to carry something which is ultimately going to end in defeat."

Listen to Mitchel McLaughlin and Ken Maginnis
Asked whether it would be acceptable for the IRA to decommission weapons within eight weeks if Sinn Fein was now let into a Northern Ireland executive, Mr Maginnis said: "I think if people were assured that the war was at an end, that illegal weapons - which always present a threat - were to be decommissioned then, of course, we would be on the way forward."

"It really will depend on the extent to which the two governments, our own and Dublin and indeed, to a degree, President Clinton who has taken an interest, are prepared to unequivocally underwrite what we are being promised.

[ image: Ken Maginnis: Call for clarity]
Ken Maginnis: Call for clarity
"To underwrite it they must understand it as clearly as I understand it. Is the war over? Are we going to find decomissioning as is expected in the agreement, as written in the agreement?

"Those are the questions that if we have answered will ensure we will move the process forward."

But Mr McLaughlin, when asked to say the war was over, said: "It would not be helpful if Ken Maginnis and I engaged in a spat. We have covered all this territory in the negotiations and now that has been relayed back to our respective parties.

"There will be decisions made tomorrow."

A review chaired by former US Senator George Mitchell into the workings of the Good Friday Agreement has been taking place for ten weeks and will resume in Belfast on Monday.

Former US senator George Mitchell adjourned the talks on Friday to allow the parties a time for reflection over the weekend.

The adjournment was announced at lunchtime on Friday following a day of confusing reports about the unionist stance regarding the deal tabled.

Mr Trimble has refused to enter into a power-sharing arrangment with Mr Adams and his Sinn Fein colleagues, before IRA weapons have been handed over. The policy was summed up simply as 'no guns, no government.'

However, 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.

Most observers do not believe at this point that it signals the collapse of the 10-week long review.

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