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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 13:17 GMT
Blair and Ahern discuss NI poll
The two men held informal talks
Tony Blair has met his Irish counterpart for talks against the backdrop of elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The prime minister met Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Cardiff as the election count showed Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) maintaining its lead.

The DUP, which is opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, is making gains over the Ulster Unionists.

Sinn Fein has also made gains against its main nationalist rival, the SDLP.

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern met at the British-Irish Council summit, where they held informal talks on the elections for 45 minutes.

Aides described the meeting as "very productive".

The prime minister and Mr Ahern are expected to meet the Northern Ireland parties next week.

Mr Ahern said in a statement: "I have always said there should be election and now the people have spoken.

"They have a mandate but with that mandate comes responsibilities.

Agreement

"I look forward to working with all the parties."

The British-Irish Council was established under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Its members are the British and Irish Governments, the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the governments of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Mr Blair, Lord Falconer and Angela Smith, under-secretary of state at the Northern Ireland Office, represented the UK Government at the meeting.

Mr Ahern was joined by Cabinet members Dermot Ahern and Eamon O Cuiv.


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"The last seats could come down to a handful of votes"




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