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Tuesday, April 20, 1999 Published at 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK

UK Politics

Mowlam confident despite setback

Sinn Fein: No shift in position

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam has said she is confident that a way forward can be found in the peace process, despite the latest setback.

The Search for Peace
Talks on Monday between the UK and Irish prime ministers and party leaders ended without progress on the crucial issue of paramilitary arms decommissioning and the formation of the province's power-sharing executive.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Seamus Mallon of the SDLP, said he was exasperated with the Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein for their failure to compromise.

He accused both parties of trying to hold the peace process to ransom.

They were maintaining positions that could "destroy something which can create a totally new way of life for all of us", he said.

'Keep talking'

Mo Mowlam: "What's important is that no-one walks - we keep talking"
But Dr Mowlam said she was confident that all parties would be working for a solution when talks resumed next week.

"What I believe is that all sides want the Good Friday Agreement to work," she said.

[ image: Mo Mowlam: Need to build confidence between the parties]
Mo Mowlam: Need to build confidence between the parties
"They all accept, I think, that there is no clear alternative and that this is the best chance we for so many years.

"What's important is that no one walks, we keep talking and try to find some way forward that both traditions are happy with.

"Because unless both sides are content we ain't going to get an executive because we can't have an executive of one side not another because that is the nature of the agreement."

Deadlock remains

Arriving at Monday's talks in Downing Street, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams warned that the agreement was "in free fall" and in danger of collapse.

Denis Murray: "Things aren't good at present, but at least all sides are talking"
His party shows no sign of shifting from its insistence that it has a right to its two ministerial seats in the executive regardless of whether the IRA has begun to disarm its weapons.

It says there is no basis in the agreement for the claim by First Minister David Trimble that there must be a credible start to IRA decommissioning before the executive is formed.

[ image: Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern: No joy at Downing Street]
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern: No joy at Downing Street
Dr Mowlam admitted ambiguities existed in the agreement and that it was inevitable that each side would try to interpret them to their best advantage.

She added that she did not believe the positions of the two parties were irreconcilable if talks continued.

"Both options are possible if there is mutual confidence and it is mutual confidence we have to work at so everyone can move."

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