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Monday, July 5, 1999 Published at 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK

UK Politics

Hume issues arms warning

Lack of trust on arms continues to stall the peace process

The leader of the SDLP has sent a strong signal that his party would go it alone without Sinn Fein if the IRA failed to decommission its arms.

John Hume told BBC Two's Newsnight: "If it emerges that people are continuing violence, there is no way we could be in government with people like that."

The Search for Peace
Ulster Unionist negotiator Dermot Nesbitt called on the SDLP to join the UUP and leave Sinn Fein behind if the IRA failed to decommission according to the terms of the deal agreed in Belfast on Friday.

"I want the SDLP to say to us that we will go forward with you if Sinn Fein doesn't come up to mark."

Outside of agreement

Sinn Fein's proposed ministerial nominée, Bairbre de Brun, said the proposal to exclude Sinn Fein would be outside the remit of the Good Friday Agreement.

It also emerged that a review to the paramilitary prisoner release programme could be considered by Downing Street.

A spokesman stressed that if the IRA reneges on its commitment to disarm, a review of the devolution process will be triggered.

He said in the context of that review, other things including prisoner releases could be looked at.

US President Bill Clinton has re-emphasised his support for the continuing work to resolve the current deadlock. It emerged that he spoke with UUP leader David Trimble on Monday by telephone.

Blair's plea for peace

Earlier, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair had urged the political leaders of Northern Ireland not to "throw away the best chance for peace we will have in this generation".

Tony Blair: This proposal provides certainty
Mr Blair said if Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists managed to overcome their differences on the decommissioning of weapons then the public would know within days if the terrorists were serious about handing in their arms.

He told MPs: "If last Friday's agreement is put through will we know in days whether the paramilitaries are serious about decommissioning their weapons.

"After 30 years of bloodshed ... is it not worth waiting 30 days to see if these undertakings are fulfilled?" he asked.

Political Editor Robin Oakley: "Neither side is prepared to take the other's words on trust"
The prime minister's statement in the Commons follows a prolonged period of intense negotiations over the future of Northern Ireland.

The implementation of the agreement, which paves the way for devolution in Northern Ireland, is being held up by the Ulster Unionists' refusal to sit in a cabinet with Sinn Fein before the IRA begins handing in its guns.

Mr Blair told MPs: "I cannot make the other parties agree to a new executive.

"But I can make sure that Sinn Fein do not continue in an executive with the UUP should there be a default of the de Chastelain process [of decommissioning]."

[ image:  ]
Responding to former Prime Minister John Major, Mr Blair repeated assurances given earlier in the day to the Ulster Unionists that the Northern Ireland Assembly could continue if the IRA broke promises on decommissioning and Sinn Fein was expelled from the executive.

But Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said the proposals being put forward asked his party to sacrifice democratic principles and gamble on an "ineffective and unfair safety-net".

Conservative leader William Hague gave his backing to the stance taken by the unionists.

Political Correspondent Laura Trevelyan: "The prime minister made an impassioned plea"
"David Trimble and his party have done all that is required in the agreement," he said.

The blame for the stalemate in implementing the Good Friday Agreement lay with "the terrorists, republican and loyalist, and their political representatives who have failed to get rid of their arms", he said.

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