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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 October 2006, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Postponed NI meeting 'a glitch'
Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams
The meeting between the party leaders was postponed
The postponement of a Stormont meeting supposed to have been attended by Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams is merely "a glitch", Peter Hain has said.

The Northern Ireland secretary put off the meeting after the DUP raised objections over the pledge of office and threatened to boycott the occasion.

Mr Paisley and SF's Martin McGuinness are due to become shadow first and deputy first ministers on 24 November.

The DUP insist support for policing and law and order is in place before then.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Hain said a separate committee would "urgently discuss" the "differences in the understanding" of what the pledge meant.

Mr Hain said: "I think we will get through this, and we need to get through this - for otherwise I close the place down - the parties all understand that."

Speaking after the postponement, Mr Paisley said the DUP's assembly members had "passed a unanimous vote in the leadership of this party".

"We have a document issued by the two governments. It is not our document. It is their document," he said.

Peter Hain
I want the parties to discuss what the arrangements should be in the context of the timetable set out in the agreement for confirming the pledge by the prospective ministers
Peter Hain
NI secretary

"We are going to take time to consider it and give to the people of Northern Ireland our findings on the matter and also we are going to have a full consultation with the people."

Gerry Adams said a lot of people would be disappointed by the DUP's decision but that "it isn't the end of the process".

He said he wanted the DUP to resolve the current problem.

"We want to help them resolve that problem - they should do it by talking directly to us," he said.

"We have put forward suggestions about the pledge of office - which we think strengthens it for all the people we represent - so why doesn't he come along and talk to us and resolve these issues?"

Last week's St Andrews Agreement stated that before the government legislated on the pledge of office, "it will consider the outcome of further Preparation for Government Committee discussions on policing and the rule of law".

MEP Jim Allister
We cannot go into government with Sinn Fein in a situation where the party still has an army council at its beck and call
Jim Alllster

Mr Paisley and Mr Adams had been expected to attend a meeting of the new Programme for Government committee until the DUP raised its objections on the pledge issue.

The postponed meeting was supposed to discuss priorities for the executive, which is scheduled to take power next March.

It was seen as significant that Mr Paisley and Mr Adams were to sit at the same round table for talks at Stormont.

'Healthy debate'

Speaking after the postponement announcement, SDLP leader Mark Durkan said people needed "to avoid head-staggers at this stage".

"Undue problems are being created, or generated, in and around the questions about pledge of office and what will happen on the 24 November," he said.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said it was a "very fluid situation" and what he described as "panic politics".

"This indicates complete chaos as to the management of this process," he said

Alliance Party leader David Ford said all parties should be around the table so we can actually address the outstanding issues as a package".

The Northern Ireland parties have been given until 10 November to respond to what the governments are calling the St Andrews Agreement.

It was published after intensive three-day talks between the parties at St Andrews in Scotland.

If all goes to plan, a first and deputy first minister will be nominated on 24 November and the devolved institutions will be up and running by 26 March.

Gareth Gordon reports on the day's events





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