NEGOTIATORS INVOLVED IN LONDON SUMMIT
A full-scale summit is being held in London today as efforts
to secure agreement on the future of the peace process reach a
climax ahead of an expected announcement of elections to the
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, Ulster Unionist leader David
Trimble, the Irish Taoiseach, the British Prime Minister and
their respective negotiating teams are gathering in Downing
The talks will attempt to secure sufficient agreement which
would result in November elections leading to a functioning
Executive and Assembly.
There has been speculation that while a broad agreement on the
way forward for the process is possible, a historic
breakthrough to complete the implementation of the Good Friday
Agreement remains unlikely.
Mr Ahern and Mr Blair are meeting privately first and later
they will join negotiatons with Mr Adams and Mr Trimble.
There have been intense and extended exchanges between Mr
Adams and Mr Trimble in Belfast over the weekend, and the
governments appear keen to sustain the momentum in London.
The Ulster Unionist Party is demanding a complete end to IRA
activity as the price for their commitment to power-sharing in
the Stormont administration.
A deal would mean the UUP would be required to contest the
elections on a pro-Agreement manifesto, a radical change for
the party after years of efforts to frustrate the peace
But Republicans are wary that the talks might yet be strung
out or undermined in a bid to again avoid the twice-cancelled
election in which Sinn Fein is expected to make gains and the
Ulster Unionists are expected to fare poorly.
November 13th remains the preferred date for Assembly
elections, although there have already been suggestions that
the poll could be put back by up to three weeks, beyond which
the start of the Christmas holiday season would make an
British government officials have sought to play down
expectations thst a date for the Assembly elections will
finally be announced.
Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "Today is a day for
assessment rather than decisions.
"We have seen the quietest summer for 30 years in Northern
Ireland in terms of trouble, and also the most intensive
period of negotiation between some of the parties since the
"The building blocks are there for a possible deal which would
allow us to go into an election in a positive frame of mind.
But the work is not yet done," the spokesman said.
"So today is about assessing where we are, how far along the
road we have got, but the context is a positive one and we
clearly hope to build on that."
The spokesman added: "Everybody is aware that time is short
and we don't have too much longer to play with."
On his way to the Downing Street meeting Mr Gerry Adams
repeated his party's belief that elections will be called
There had been speculation that today's talks would be "make
or break", he said but insisted: "In fact they are a
continuation of the very intensive discussions we have been
involved in back home with some of the other parties and the
Those discussions had covered issues such as policing, the
human rights agenda, the equality agenda and demilitarisation.
All of those were as yet "incomplete".
Asked about the issue of arms, Mr Adams said that while this
was a matter for the armed groups, the issue of creating
conditions in which arms can be put beyond use was a matter
for all the parties.
The way it was done was an issue for the decommissioning body
and the armed groups, he added.
UUP leader Mr David Trimble told reporters as he arrived: "We
are hopeful that some progress can be made.
"We all know what the issues are. The issues are the same
issues that we were considering in April: whether there is
going to be an end to paramilitary activity, whether
Republicans are going to resume and this time deal effectively
with the decommissioning issue, and whether, as a result of
that, it is going to be possible for the Assembly to resume
and for elections to occur."
US president George W. Bush's special adviser, Ambassador
Richard Haass, today delayed a visit to the North to
participate in the crucial peace process summit.