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BBC NI Political Correspondent, Mark Simpson reports
Healing process may take a long time
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BBC NI Political Editor Stephen Grimason reports
"The Sinn Fein President was sharply critical of Peter Mandelson"
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Mitchell MacLaughlin, Sinn Fein
"We're trying to deal with the reality of the situation"
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Monday, 28 February, 2000, 22:48 GMT
Mandelson seeks SDLP advice

Suspended: The power-sharing executive at Stormont
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson has sought advice from the leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party over the faltering peace process.

The Search for Peace
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It followed separate meetings between Mr Mandelson and delegations from the Ulster Unionist Party and Sinn Fein which failed to produce new proposals to resolve the impasse.

A spokesperson for the SDLP confirmed that Mr Mandelson spoke by telephone to SDLP leader John Hume on Monday seeking advice on the way forward.

The spokesman said: "Mr Hume strongly reiterated the SDLP proposal that in order to move the situation on, a meeting of the all pro-agreement parties should be convened by the two governments.

"Mr Hume stressed the need to involve General de Chastelain in the meeting, so that each of the parties could be clear about the content of two reports and what the general sees as the logical way to resolve the decommissioning issue."

Mr Mandelson said he was considering every possibility.

Peter Mandelson: Considering possibilities
"It may be that not only ourselves but the Irish government want to come together and invite the pro-agreement parties together to have a more general discussion.

"But at the moment, different meeting, different contacts are likely to enable us to invest the right time and energy to finding a way forward."

The power-sharing executive set up in December was suspended earlier this month due to the impasse over paramilitary weapons.

After meeting Mr Mandelson earlier, former Sinn Fein health minister Bairbre de Brun said he gave no indication if and when he would restart the province's political institutions.

Following his meeting with Mr Mandelson, the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said the only way to "cure" the suspension was for the republican movement to deliver on the arms issue.

He also said suggestions by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams that republicans could secure a better deal in a new agreement were "unhelpful".

"What we are concentrating on is the implementation of the agreement we have rather than a new one," he said.

He also dismissed proposals for a round table meeting involving the pro-agreement parties and weapons body chief, General de Chastelain.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said the unionist veto had effectively been replaced by a British veto.

"He said that the institutions could be put up as quickly as they had been brought down - but he has no plan," said Mr Kelly.

Sir Reg Empey: "Nobody will us what offer was"
Ulster Unionist Sir Reg Empey called for details of the offer contained in the second report from the decommissioning body to be spelt out in detail to them.

Sir Reg said: "I don't know whether there was any sincerity behind the offer or not if there was one.

"If there is an offer we are prepared to look at it - but no-one has told us what it is," he said.

The talks came a day after Mr Adams said the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was now in tatters.

In a speech to a special party conference in Dublin on Sunday, Mr Adams said the handling of what he called the "crisis issue" by Mr Mandelson had made it more difficult to secure a resolution in the future.

Electoral strength

He said the party should prepare to strengthen its electoral hand to secure a better deal for republicans if the Good Friday Agreement is renegotiated.

The Sinn Fein leader was accused of playing into the hands of anti-agreement unionists by former finance minister Mark Durkan of the SDLP.

Referring to Mr Adams' calls for a new agreement, Mr Durkan said: "What he was coming out with yesterday was music to the ears of rejectionist unionists."

Meanwhile, relatives of people killed and injured by security forces mounted a protest at the talks venue in Stormont.

The group, Relatives for Justice, launched a poster which highlighted alleged human rights violations by the police and army.

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See also:

27 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Adams: NI peace deal 'in tatters'
26 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Adams warns of years of deadlock
26 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Demonstrations against assembly suspension
24 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Adams: Sinn Fein may cut IRA link
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