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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 March 2007, 13:50 GMT
DUP debate power-sharing decision
 Ian Paisley arriving to meet the DUP party executive
Many believe Ian Paisley is ready to share power
The DUP's ruling executive is meeting to decide if it will nominate ministers to a power-sharing executive at Stormont.

The British government is looking for an answer from the party this weekend, before Monday's devolution deadline.

The British and Irish governments have said Stormont will be dissolved if the 26 March deadline is not met.

Meanwhile, Gerry Adams is on his way back to Belfast from Dublin to meet with his party's negotiating team.

The Sinn Fein president spoke to Prime Minister Tony Blair on the phone and said he has concerns that some within the DUP and the British government have "become unsettled", as Monday's deadline approaches.

"But the fact is that the people have spoken. They want to see the power-sharing institutions restored," he said.

The 120-strong DUP executive meeting has been described by some party figures as the most important in its history.

The politicians have gathered at Castlereagh Borough Council offices, with discussions expected to last until early Saturday afternoon.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said: "Most observers believe the DUP leader, Ian Paisley, is ready, in principle, to share power.

Ian Paisley
Many believe Ian Paisley is ready to share power

"But his party has been looking for an eight-week delay which will put a new Stormont executive on ice until late May."

Mr Paisley held talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair twice within 48 hours this week, ahead of the deadline.

After the second meeting, Downing Street re-iterated that Monday's deadline stood.

Mr Paisley said a "great deal of ground" had been covered.

However, he earlier said a financial package offered by Chancellor Gordon Brown did not meet Northern Ireland's economic needs.

Mr Brown has promised an extra 1bn if devolution is back on Monday.

The cash is on top of 35bn promised by the government over four years.

Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin said there were still those in the DUP who did not want power-sharing.

He said that if the deadline was not met, the assembly should be dissolved and all assembly members "sacked".

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended since October 2002, amid allegations of an IRA spy ring at Stormont.

A subsequent court case collapsed. Direct rule has been in place since that date.

If devolution does not return, controversial water bills will be posted to homes in Northern Ireland within days.




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