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The BBC's David Eades
"Consensus there may be. Agreement there is not"
 real 28k

The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"Crisis meeting at Downing Street"
 real 28k

The Ulster Unionist Leader, David Trimble
"We have seen the Republican movement squander the best opportunity they've had to date"
 real 28k

David Ervine, Progressive Unionist Party
"We need this breathing space of non-violence"
 real 28k

John Bruton, former Irish PM
"The argument is not about personality"
 real 28k

Tommy McKierney, former IRA prisoner
"The ceasefire will hold"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 13:09 GMT
IRA 'halted' return of Assembly

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern head new peace efforts

Northern Ireland's political institutions could have been restored by Friday if the IRA had not withdrawn from arms talks, former Irish premier John Bruton has said.

Mr Bruton, the leader of the opposition Fine Gael party in the Irish Republic, said the decision would have been taken after Wednesday's meeting in Downing Street between the British and Irish prime ministers.

The Search for Peace
More related to this story
Link to Sinn Fein
Link to Good Friday Agreement
Link to Decommissioning
Tony Blair and Taioseach Bertie Ahern are also due to hold talks with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and the SDLP in an effort to resolve the current deadlock.

Mr Bruton claimed he was told in private briefings by the Irish government that the power-sharing executive would have been restored on Friday.

"By virtue of a commitment that was on the table to de Chastelain being implemented before Friday, the body was to be restored," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"Now that is impossible because the IRA, probably fearing that they would have to live up to their word, which they didn't want to do, withdrew the offer."

But UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said there had been no pre-planned timetable for restoring the executive.

Earlier, Sinn Fein vice-president Pat Doherty told the BBC that the high level meetings in Downing Street were an opportunity to rescue the peace process.

"I would say to the British government to do two things; first of all, reinstate the institutions and, secondly, publicly accept the de Chastelain report," he said.

The IRA announced on Tuesday it was breaking off contact with the body supervising arms decommissioning and withdrawing offers it had made on the weapons issue.

Those who seek a military victory in this way need to understand that this cannot and will not happen
IRA statement
The group said it made its decision due to the suspension of Northern Ireland's short-lived power-sharing executive last Friday over the decommissioning impasse.

The latest IRA statement prompted a war of words between political parties in the province over who was to blame for the development.

The decision, although adding to the current gloom surrounding the political deadlock in Northern Ireland, is not viewed as an immediate threat to the IRA ceasefire.

Unionists are adamant that the IRA must give up some guns before they share power with republicans in the future.

But the IRA says it will not deal with the weapons issue under pressure from either the UK government or unionists.

However, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has accused republicans of squandering the "best ever opportunity" to resolve the arms issue after a meeting with General John de Chastelain.

But he has held out hope that the process could recover from this latest blow.

David Trimble: Process can 'bounce back'
"Hopes of bouncing back are not high at the moment - but should not be ruled out," he said.

Mr Trimble said the latest IRA statement supported his belief that the paramilitary group's apparent shift in position towards decommissioning had been a "publicity gesture".

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson described the IRA statement as disappointing.

He said: "I believe this is a time when all channels need to be kept open. What was on the table had real potential and people will be sad that it could not be worked on and developed in the way that is needed."

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See also:
15 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
IRA statement in full
16 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
IRA withdrawal 'not total surprise'
15 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
'Disappointment' at IRA move
15 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Adams: No room to move on arms
14 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
A view from Dublin
11 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Second De Chastelain report in full

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