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Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 05:02 GMT 06:02 UK
Blair urged to halt amnesty plans
Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith has urged the government to abandon plans to grant an amnesty to Northern Ireland paramilitaries who are still on the run.

In a letter to Tony Blair, Mr Duncan Smith said concessions to groups which had not fulfilled their obligations under the Good Friday Agreement were generating "a sense of injustice and betrayal".

The Tory leader also asks Mr Blair to clarify if he believes the ceasefires by loyalist and republican paramilitaries are "complete and unequivocal".


Such concessions generate a sense of injustice, betrayal and cynicism throughout the community in Northern Ireland

Iain Duncan Smith

The move comes ahead of the UK prime minister holding crisis talks on the peace process at Hillsborough in County Down.

It also comes at a time when confidence in the political process among unionists has waned.

In the letter, Mr Duncan Smith tells Mr Blair that his party remains committed to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Ceasefire doubts

But he says recent events have cast credibility on the ceasefires.

The Tory leader will ask if Mr Blair backs a call by the Irish Premier Bertie Ahern for the IRA to disband and for decommissioning to be complete by May 2003.

Iain Duncan Smith
Letter urges Mr Blair to explain stance on NI peace process
The prime minister will also be asked if the tests on the ceasefires which he first outlined four years ago will now be applied.

Mr Duncan Smith also wants government plans to drop charges against fugitive paramilitaries to be abandoned.

He wrote: "I believe that making new concessions to parties who have not fulfilled their existing obligations reduces the incentive to comply.

"Furthermore, such concessions generate a sense of injustice, betrayal and cynicism throughout the community in Northern Ireland."

Crisis talks

The prime minister is preparing for a series of intensive talks with the province's pro-Agreement parties.

On Wednesday, he meets the Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, in London.


This contributes to the general demoralisation and the general cynicism about the peace process - that's what we are worried about

Quentin Davies
Conservative Party

Mr Duncan Smith says in his letter he hopes the meeting will contribute towards ending the "current drift" in the process and bring about the full implementation of the Agreement.

The Conservative Party's Northern Ireland spokesman, Quentin Davies, said "the government's complete inaction is making the situation far, far worse".

"There must be some leadership in a peace process if it is going to be successful," he said.

"If there are abuses, if there are breaches of the ceasefire and the government does nothing at all, that merely encourages people to think that they can get away with breaking their undertakings.

"This contributes to the general demoralisation and the general cynicism about the peace process - that's what we are worried about."

On Thursday, Mr Blair and his Irish counterpart Mr Ahern will meet at Hillsborough.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid told senior loyalists in east Belfast on Tuesday that he would work with those who wanted a peaceful and better Ireland - but oppose those "stuck to a path of violence."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stephen Walker
"This intervention comes at a time when confidence in the peace process is in short supply"
Quentin Davies, shadow Northern Ireland secretary:
"There must be some leadership in a peace process"
See also:

02 Jul 02 | N Ireland
14 Jun 02 | N Ireland
10 Jun 02 | N Ireland
10 Jun 02 | N Ireland
10 Jun 02 | N Ireland
08 Jun 02 | N Ireland
10 Mar 01 | N Ireland
Internet links:


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