Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 16:08 UK

Iraq talks 'possibly in Ireland'

Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness has travelled to Iraq

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said a future round of Iraqi peace talks could be held in Ireland.

Back from Iraq on Monday, together with the former Assembly Speaker Lord Alderdice, he said Iraqis wanted peace as much as people in Belfast.

He was in the country to encourage Sunni and Shia factions to sign up to a commitment to non-violence.

It is based on the Mitchell Principles used in Northern Ireland.

It includes an undertaking to engage in peaceful negotiations and the disbandment of all paramilitary groups.

Mr McGuinness described his time in Iraq as "absolutely incredible".

"If you want a glimpse of what World War III would be like, it's there on the streets of Baghdad. So I think it's of vital importance that the process, which is now beginning to move, moves speedily," he said.

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"I also want to applaud the courage and leadership shown by these Iraqi politicians. I think something very important, something very powerful is beginning to happen."

Previous talks, involving the opposing factions, were held in Helsinki and included NI representatives and South African political figures.

Mr McGuinness was accompanied by Lord Alderdice and political consultant Quintin Oliver.

The three men met with South African representatives and more than 30 Iraqi politicians inside Baghdad's high security green zone.

'Heavy duty'

"I have been to a lot of trouble spots in various parts of the world, but none of them are more militarised than this one," Lord Alderdice said.

"It's very heavy duty, and people are very careful indeed. Furthermore, the amount of military paraphernalia and concrete here is quite extraordinary.

"I was also saying to Martin McGuinness as we came into the airport, I've never seen an airport of that size with so few civilian planes in it."





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