Saturday, July 3, 1999 Published at 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK
Plan to end arms deadlock
Chance for peace: Tony Blair called on parties to "make it work"
The UK and Irish prime ministers have put forward a plan to end the deadlock over IRA weapons which would lead to the setting up of the new Northern Ireland executive.
The deal was put forward amid fears of an outbreak of violence surrounding Sunday's controversial march at Drumcree by Protestant Orangemen, which has been banned from passing a nationalist housing estate.
Within days the handover of weapons would begin, a process due to be completed by May 2000.
The conditional nature of their proposals was underlined by Mr Ahern, who called it "an agreement for consideration."
The lengthy negotiations between the two sides have been stuck on one crucial problem - the handover of paramilitary weapons.
For his part, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was more upbeat.
He said: "There will be an enormous sigh of relief across this island tonight and indeed around the world.
"I think everyone would warmly welcome the conclusion of our efforts."
He said the government would trigger mechanisms to set up the power-sharing executive in the new Northern Ireland assembly on 15 July.
A Devolution Order is to be laid before parliament on 16 July, to take effect on 18 July, effectively giving power to locally elected politicians for the first time in a generation.
He also said that within the period specified by General John de Chastelain, the international commission on disarmament would confirm a start to the process of decommissioning.
The general's report on the decommissioning of paramilitary groups' weapons was published earlier in the day.
The assessment was given by General de Chastelain, who said the process should start as soon as possible.
In particular, he said that Sinn Fein had given him the basis for believing that the IRA's arsenal could be fully decommissioned by May 2000.
Mr Blair said that decommissioning would begin within days of the devolution of power, and this would mean the actual handover of arms within weeks.
All the parties now have a period of two weeks to consult their rank and file membership.
Mr Blair accepted that the talks process had now entered the "end game" in the runup to 15 July.
The groundbreaking deal from the two governments was welcomed by President Clinton, who has followed every stage of the negotiations.
He pledged the support of the United States, and said the proposals amounted to "a major opportunity to resolve this problem for ever."
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