Friday, November 19, 1999 Published at 18:28 GMT
UK: Northern Ireland
Trimble begins battle for party support
David Trimble wins request for a meeting of ruling council
The Ulster Unionist Leader David Trimble has begun the battle to win support within his party for the compromise package aimed at ending the deadlock in the peace process.
The party's executive supported this move at a meeting held in Belfast on Friday, but Mr Trimble now faces an enormous challenge to win over his party's grassroots.
The compromise deal emerged following the conclusion of the former Senator George Mitchell's review of the workings of the Good Friday Agreement.
It involves the setting up of a power sharing administration, and an announcement by the IRA that it has appointed an intermediary to deal with the international body overseeing the handover of weapons. Both are due to happen on the same day, if all goes to plan.
The package will now be put before the party's 800 strong ruling council, but winning the backing of a majority for the proposals on offer will be tough.
That meeting is expected to take place on Saturday, 27 November.
In an early indication of the difficulties Mr Trimble will face in promoting the deal, Derek Hussey, the deputy whip of the Ulster Unionist assembly group resigned in protest at the current direction of party policy.
"It does have the capacity to transform the society that exists here, does give us the opportunity to move away from the conflict and division that has been so evident over the last three decades, and to create instead a society based on peace and democracy and a society that is going to be at ease with itself.
Referring to the meeting of the ruling council he said that it should not be looked on as "make or break".
At one point in the news conference the tensions within the Ulster Unionist Party surfaced as an anti-agreement member of the executive interrupted with the words: "Let's have some honesty in this party".
Party official David Brewster was referring to a statement which suggested that UUP officers had agreed to recommend the formation of a power-sharing executive.
Unionist support is critical if the peace process is to move forward to the next stage - the setting up a devolved administration - which may happen as soon as early December.
George Mitchell's review ended on Thursday with the former US senator saying that the basis now exists for devolution and decommissioning.
It followed a number of carefully choreographed statements earlier in the week which broke the deadlock over the issue of paramilitary weapons.
In their statement the Ulster Unionists pledged support for inclusive government, while Sinn Fein leaders stated their opposition to violence and their belief that decommissioning was an important part of the peace process.
The IRA then said following the establishment of a power-sharing executive, it would appoint an intermediary to the international body appointed to oversee the handover of paramilitary weapons.
The majority of the Ulster Unionist Assembly Group may be behind David Trimble, but most of his fellow MPs object to his strategy. The decision therefore of the party's council will be critical.
Many unionists still believe that they should not enter an administration with Sinn Fein until the IRA actually hands over some weapons, a policy of 'no guns, no government.'